Stange: Nothing less than wins against Laos and Cambodia
National coach Stange demands 'good performances' and 'good results' against Laos and Cambodia
Singapore will wrap up their preparations for the AFF Suzuki Cup with two friendlies against Laos tomorrow and Cambodia on Monday.
The Lions face regional powerhouses Thailand in their campaign opener on Nov 23 and national coach Bernd Stange wants nothing less than two wins from the two friendlies against the minnows to instil confidence in the camp.
"It is important to go into our match against Thailand with a positive mood and feeling," said the German yesterday. "It's good to play at home after so many games away. We need good results to raise the confidence of our young team.
"I want to see the team keep their shape well, to do what we have been practising in training and to get good results to go with good performances."
Singapore, co-hosts of the Suzuki Cup, are in Group B with Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar.
Former Hertha Berlin coach Stange is desperate for a couple of wins to lift his players' flagging spirits.
In what has been a disappointing year for the Lions, they have won just one of seven "A" Internationals, slipping down the Fifa rankings to 161st.
Their sole victory was a 2-1 win over 199th-ranked Papua New Guinea in June.
But Stange is heartened by his players' showing in their last match in Riffa last Friday - a 0-2 defeat by a Bahrain team ranked 13th in Asia.
The Lions held firm for three-quarters of the game before conceding two quickfire goals in the 67th and 75th minutes, and Stange later praised his team's showing for the first hour of the match.
"It was an excellent team performance," said the coach, who described the first 67 minutes against Bahrain as the team's best this year. "We defended well as a team, we attacked well and gave Bahrain a few scares too.
"I was very happy that the players followed the instructions and showed our quality against one of Asia's best teams."
Midfielder Hariss Harun echoed his coach's rallying call for wins.
The 23-year-old, who plays his club football at Malaysian outfit Johor Darul Ta'zim, is eager to make an impression at this year's Suzuki Cup after a bittersweet tournament two years ago.
While he was a part of the winning squad, he played in only two group stage matches before picking up a leg fracture which ruled him out for the rest of the tournament.
Victories in the next two games would put the Lions in the right frame of mind for a title defence.
"We are aware we haven't got good results all year, but now's the time to step up," said Hariss.
"We need to score goals and keep clean sheets to build up our confidence.
"Against Laos and Cambodia, we have to set the standard."
He added that while the highly-anticipated clash with tournament favourites Thailand on Nov 23 will be at the back of the players' minds, they are firmly focused on the two friendly matches ahead of them.
"We'll take one game at a time," he said coolly. "That's how we did it in 2012. Thailand, of course, is an important game for us, but we are all professionals and we know we have Laos on Thursday and Cambodia on Monday, first.
"When we wear the flag on our chest, we wear it with pride and a sense of duty. We know we have to perform in every game and that's what we aim to do."
"We need good results to raise the confidence of our young team."
— Bernd Stange
IN AND OUT: Mustafic Fahrudin (top) and Daniel Bennette (centre) are out of the country while Isa Halim (above) is definitely out of the AFF Suzuki Cup. PHOTOS: TNP, ST FILE
They have been overlooked for almost two years.
So the inclusion of veteran duo Mustafic Fahrudin and Daniel Bennett in Singapore's provisional 35-man squad for next week's AFF Suzuki Cup certainly raised a few eyebrows.
They last donned the national jersey in Dec 2012, as part of the squad that won the tournament a record fourth time.
But the chances of the pair making the cut for the final 23-man squad are slim.
The New Paper understands that Tampines Rovers defensive midfielder Fahrudin, 33, left for Serbia - his country of birth - last Thursday. He plans to return at the turn of the new year for pre-season training with the Stags.
Meanwhile, Warriors FC's Briton-born defender Bennett, 36, left for Britain after the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League Awards Night last Sunday.
Asked why the two players are included in his draft squad, national coach Bernd Stange quizzically responded: "The provisional squad is not important for our final selection. We (will) strictly follow our way to rebuild a young and powerful national team."
One player who will definitely not be in the Suzuki Cup squad is Isa Halim. The 28-year-old LionsXII captain had struggled this year from a niggling ankle injury.
He went under the knife in late March and returned to action three months later.
Despite his recovery, the midfield hardman was not selected by Stange for a month-long training camp in Austria in July.
Isa, who made his national team debut aged 19, told TNP: "Like any player, I always want to represent my country. And, after being a part of the national team for so long, it's very disappointing not to be involved this time round.
"But I understand this hasn't been my best season because of injuries and my own performance, and I don't want to get selected just because I'm the LionsXII captain.
"I just want to forget the year, wish the team luck, and I'll keep working hard to earn my place back in the team."
THE PROVISIONAL SQUAD
- Goalkeepers: Hassan Sunny (Warriors FC), Izwan Mahbud (LionsXII), Syazwan Buhari, Rudy Khairullah (both Courts Young Lions)
- Defenders: Baihakki Khaizan, Safuwan Baharudin, Shakir Hamzah, Madhu Mohana, Faritz Hameed, Afiq Yunos (all LionsXII), Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Amirul Adli (both Young Lions), Ismail Yunos, Daniel Bennett (both Warriors), Shaiful Esah (Tampines Rovers)
- Midfielders: Hariss Harun (Johor Darul Ta'zim), Faris Ramli, Gabriel Quak, Zulfahmi Arifin, Nazrul Nazari, Hafiz Abu Sujad (all LionsXII), Shahdan Sulaiman, Ismadi Mukhtar, Mustafic Fahrudin (all Tampines), M Anumanthan (Young Lions), Hafiz Rahim (Warriors), Yasir Hanapi (Home United)
- Forwards: Shahril Ishak (JDT II), Khairul Amri, Khairul Nizam, Shahfiq Ghani (all LionsXII), Sahil Suhaimi, Iqbal Hussain, Adam Swandi (all Courts Young Lions), Fazrul Nawaz (Home).
How to get your tickets
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) yesterday released ticket details for the Lions' two friendly matches against Laos tomorrow and Cambodia on Monday.
Fans can buy a single ticket for $12, or tickets to both matches for $20. The concession rate, for students aged 16 years and below and senior citizens 60 years and above, is $3.
Those eligible for concession rates have to produce their concession passes upon entry into the stadium. Concession tickets are also applicable to children aged 7 and below without concession passes, who require a seat in the stadium.
Fans can buy the tickets from Ticketbooth's website www.ticketbooth.com.sg, the 12 Ticketbooth outlets, or AXS machines until 4pm on matchday.
Sales will resume on matchday from 4.30pm at Yishun Stadium, subject to availability.
Ticket redemptions for online and AXS purchases can be done at the Ticketbooth outlets during operating hours and at Yishun Stadium on matchday using the sales receipt.
Fans of the visiting teams are advised to purchase their match tickets on matchday at the stadium.
For enquiries, please contact Ticketbooth at 6296-2929 or email email@example.com.