Sundram vows to play positive football against Lebanon
Lions coach vows to attack Lebanon in dress rehearsal for next week's Asian Cup qualifier
He was know as "The Dazzler" in his pomp, and it was as apt a nickname as any for a player who bamboozled the best of defenders.
But, as a coach, V. Sundram Moorthy has built a reputation in stark contrast to the attacking flair that defined him as a player.
His coaching ethos centred on discipline and tight defensive lines.
When he won the Malaysian Super League with Singapore side LionsXII in 2013, he did it with a well-organised team that was near impossible to break down at the back.
His tactical philosophy, though, appeared to have taken a dramatic turn in recent matches.
When Singapore play against Lebanon at the National Stadium tonight, Sundram will have his charges line up in an attacking 3-4-3 shape.
Keen observers will recognise the formation as one that is becoming increasingly familiar.
He said at the pre-match press conference yesterday: "This change in formation allows our wing-backs to attack more.
"We did it because we weren't scoring enough and we need to score more goals - and we are sticking to it."
This change in formation allows our wing-backs to attack more. ''We did it because we weren't scoring enough and we need to score more goals - and we are sticking to it.V. Sundram Moorthy
He added: "We have to venture forward more, we are the home team.
"Playing in front of our home fans, we must be positive."
The match against Lebanon may be just a friendly, but it will be excellent practice for an upcoming assignment - next Tuesday's must-win Group E Asian Cup qualifier against Bahrain.
The Lions are four points behind third-placed Taiwan in the group, and five adrift of Turkmenistan and leaders Bahrain.
With just two matches left to play, only a win against Bahrain next Tuesday at the National Stadium can keep their already-slim hopes of qualifying alive.
Hariss Harun is the captain of the squad in the absence of Shahril Ishak, and the 26-year-old midfielder believes the Lions are growing into the team's new philosophy.
"We've done quite well (in terms of performances), we're just not getting results yet," said Hariss.
"We will keep fighting, and the important thing is to believe in one another."
Singapore have turned in better performances of late, including one against higher-ranked Turkmenistan (ranked 114th in the world) at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
In that September fixture, the Lions looked headed for their first victory in the group before conceding a late equaliser to draw 1-1.
"The boys are adapting quite well, and most players know their roles," said Hariss, who believes they can only improve.
"It has shown in our performances that the boys have more freedom to go forward, without being too exposed at the back," added Hariss, pointing to twinkle-toed attacker Faris Ramli as one of the key players of the squad.
On Sundram's part, he has given his team the licence to attack, but he also warned against a cavalier attitude, especially against the likes of Lebanon and Bahrain.
Lebanon are 100th in the Fifa rankings, and have already secured qualification for the 2019 Asian Cup Finals in the United Arab Emirates.
Bahrain (125th) currently lead the Group E standings, and have conceded only three goals in four games. Singapore occupy the 173rd spot.
Said Sundram: "We have chosen to play against a very strong Lebanon team.
"Looking at what they can do, we must ensure that we retain balance in our team, even as we go forward.
"But we want to win now, because we need to win against Bahrain."
Goalkeepers: Hassan Sunny, Syazwan Buhari, Zaiful Nizam
Defenders: Daniel Bennett, Irfan Fandi, Madhu Mohana, Faritz Hameed, Mustafic Fahrudin, Nazrul Nazari, Emmeric Ong, Safirul Sulaiman, Shannon Stephen
Midfielders: M Anumanthan, Hariss Harun, Hafiz Sujad, Zulfahmi Arifin, Izzdin Shafiq, Safuwan Baharudin, Yasir Hanapi, Hami Syahin, Shahdan Sulaiman
Forwards: Shawal Anuar, Ikhsan Fandi, Khairul Amri, Faris Ramli
- Tickets for tonight's friendly against Lebanon and next Tuesday's Asian Cup qualifier against Bahrain are available online at www.sportshubtix.com.sg, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium box office and SingPost outlets.