Duric: Stange has to go

Former Singapore international Aleksandar Duric has blasted the national team, and believes coach Bernd Stange is responsible for the Lions’ downfall at the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup.

Stange’s poor selection of players was exposed by the lack of depth in the 22-man squad, with the team sorely missing Baihakki Khaizan and Shahdan Sulaiman’s presences in the decisive 3-1 home defeat to Malaysia according to the ex-striker.

When asked whether Stange should be given the time to oversee a revival after an unceremonious Group B exit, Duric simply told FourFourTwo: “I think it’s time for him to go”.

“We just didn’t have enough depth. You can see this squad wasn’t balanced and definitely not as strong as the winning side of 2012.

"The starting XI in the first two games was strong, but we struggled with the players coming in for Bai and Shahdan.

“It was shown in our first game against Thailand where Bai came out at half time; Zulfahmi [Arifin] went in and didn’t really do much.”

Baihakki was serving a one-match suspension, while Shahdan broke his foot in an earlier 4-2 win against Myanmar.

Duric, who participated in three previous Suzuki Cups, believes the players were overawed by the occasion last night.

“Too many players didn’t turn up,” he said bluntly.

“Maybe it was mental pressure. Too many of them just didn’t perform when they should have. Only a few actually played while the rest were just watching. We let Malaysia dominate from literally the first minute to the last.

“The pace of the game was frantic and we paid the price in the end for the penalty. Credit to [Malaysia’s] Safiq [Rahim] though, it was not easy to score under so much pressure from the home fans.”

In the absence of Shahdan, captain Shahril Ishak dropped into a deeper midfield position while Shahfiq Ghani lined up just behind Khairul Amri.

But Singapore struggled to carve scoring chances without Shahril’s attacking industry, with 11 of their 12 shots in total coming from outside the box.

“We were disastrous in the final third,” Duric said.

“We didn’t really know what to do when we got into the final third. The goal we scored was a lucky one.”

Drawing from the experience of being involved in the Lions’ group stage exit in the 2010 Suzuki Cup, the 44-year-old believes it will take some time for some of the players to recover psychologically.   

“It’s never a good feeling to lose the last group game and get knocked out from the group stage,” he said.

“Now we need to regroup and get these younger boys more exposure in tougher games, but not by playing against Laos and Cambodia.”

Photo credit: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo