Tardy urges players to play for pride and honour
Singapore Under-22 football coach won't throw in the towel even though they are as good as eliminated
The Singapore Under-22 football side's SEA Games campaign is on life support.
It would take nothing short of a miracle - a few consecutive miracles as a matter of fact - for Richard Tardy's charges to progress from the group stage.
But, although the Young Lions have lost their first two fixtures to Myanmar (2-0) and Malaysia (2-1) and are rooted to the bottom of Group A, there will be no white flag raised above the Singapore camp.
Tardy wants the team to buckle down, starting with this afternoon's fixture against Laos.
"We must play for pride, for honour. We are playing as the national team of the country in a big tournament - we must respect Singapore football," said the Frenchman.
"I will play my best team, even though some players will be disappointed."
Myanmar and Malaysia lead the group with six points each, with Myanmar leading on goal difference.
None of the other three teams - Brunei, Laos and Singapore - have any points on the board, but the Young Lions are bottom by virtue of having played one game more and having conceded more goals.
However, Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Lim Kia Tong said that he couldn't fault the players' commitment.
He said: "I cannot deny that I'm disappointed because there was so much yearning for results and, in that sense, I'm disappointed.
"But let's be clear: I'm not disappointed by the effort made by the players.
"If there was a 1-0 win (against Malaysia on Wednesday), I'd have been very happy - because critics would've been able to see some light that exists in the team."
Tardy will not have a full squad to choose from against the Laotians, who lost 3-1 to Myanmar on Wednesday after conceding twice deep into injury time.
Singapore's lone goal scorer at this tourney, Amiruldin Nodin, is ruled out through injury, while left back Syahrul Sazali and midfielder Hami Syahin are doubtful.
Said Tardy: "I watched the Laos and Myanmar match, and Laos lost the game only at the last minute - they will not be easy opponents for us.
"Laos are a good team, with good speed, and we will need to perform well, be at our best level if we want to get a good result."
Critics are already sharpening their knives, pointing to Singapore's dominance over Laos in the past as an indication of how Singapore's neighbours have progressed while football here has stalled, but the FAS president called for calm.
Lim said: "Results tell us that other countries have progressed ahead of us, but not to the extent that they (critics) would have you believe.
"Our standard of football is not that far off."
THERE IS HOPE
He pointed to the team's second-half performance in the 2-0 loss to Myanmar as an indication of their potential, against a Myanmar side that included several players with top-level international experience from their recently concluded Fifa Under-20 World Cup campaign.
Wednesday's first-half performance against Malaysia - Singapore went into the break 1-0 up - also gave Lim hope.
Meanwhile, Tardy urged his players to give their all against Laos today and in the Young Lions' final fixture against Brunei next Wednesday.
He said: "We are physically tired and also mentally tired. To lose to Malaysia after taking the lead is not easy to get over, but the players must recover well.
"We must get a good result (today). For me the SEA Games is not finished, we must continue to try and achieve something."