LionsXII boss Fandi Ahmad expects his side to stay grounded when they face ATM FA amidst the euphoria surrounding his players’ FA Cup triumph and their involvement in Singapore’s heroic draw against Japan.
The internationals return to the team preparing to face second-last ATM, having enjoyed a 4-0 thumping of Cambodia before the 0-0 draw in Saitama in World Cup qualifying action.
But Fandi has emphasised to his players that there will still be no room for complacency, even against one of the weakest sides in the league.
“Of course morale is high after the cup final and the results with the national team, but now we need to stay focused on the upcoming matches,” he told FourFourTwo after Friday’s training session at Jalan Besar Stadium.
“We’ve been stressing that that [the good results] is already all in the past. With our next few matches all being quite tough, I hope the players can keep playing at this level.”
Defender Madhu Mohana agrees with the notion that his team are only considered as good as their last result.
“Given the result results, the team is definitely on a high but one thing we cannot afford to do is to be overconfident or complacent,” said the 24-year-old.
“We definitely cannot always live off our FA Cup win or Japan draw. It’s all over and it’s important that we now bring that form into the league, where we have not been doing so well.
Indeed, the LionsXII’s MSL form this year has been patchy as best, currently standing eighth in the table with 13 points from 10 games – four points below the top half, and seven adrift of league leaders Pahang FA.
But now bolstered by the returns of Shakir Hamzah, Safirul Sulaiman and Shahfiq Ghani, Fandi is hopeful of mounting a challenge for a top-three finish.
“It’s good that now we have a better pool of players to rotate, so there’s a healthy challenge for everyone to fight for their places,” said the 53-year-old.
“We’ve three games in the next six days, so that’s where the other players come in handy. I’ve told everyone that nobody is certain of a place in the starting XI. This is a happy team and they have to fight for one another.
“Hopefully this can help us do better than last season, and we definitely want to qualify for the [next season’s] Malaysia Cup early.”
The Singaporeans are scheduled to play five games during the Ramadhan period - something which Fandi believes could well define their season.
“It’s going to be very taxing and challenging for these boys, since most of them are Muslim,” he explained.
“Given the heat and the change of kick-off timings, it is more difficult for them to adapt in their daily routines and get used to it. That’s why I’ve been motivating them.
“It’s all about mental toughness now, which I believe they are capable of showing.”
Main image: Football Association of Singaporecomments