Less than a month into his tenure, National Youth Teams head coach Richard Tardy has given a damning assessment of Singapore's junior footballers.
The Frenchman was making his first public comments since his appointment in late July, having watched Singapore's under-15 and under-16 teams finish fourth and third respectively in the Lion City Cup on Sunday evening.
"Many people are very happy with the 3-3 draw against Liverpool," Tardy said, referencing the under-16s' Lion City Cup opener on Friday. "I say it was a good second half for us, but not a good game.
"I'm starting to get a good picture of our youths here. We say we play well, but the level is not enough for what we're looking for here.
"We know we're here to work in the short term, with AFC qualification for the under-16s coming up in two weeks and the under-18s in a month."
Singapore will host qualification for the AFC under-16 championships, with North Korea, Thailand and Cambodia set to arrive at the end of August.
Delivering a stark wake-up call to the country's youngsters, Tardy believes Singapore footballers are falling behind in three crucial areas – technically, physically and mentally.
"One of the first points I see too much is the technical weaknesses of our players," he said. "For the first team [technical skills are] important, but for the youths it is even more important.
"I also need to talk to the coaches. Physically we need more speed, more pace. We have some problems with endurance; many players are getting cramps.
"When you are under-15s and under-16s, there's no logic. We know it is very humid, but it is happening too much.
"[Lastly], they must have fighting spirit. We must teach our players when they play for their national team and in our colours, they must give not 100 per cent, but 120 per cent from beginning to end of the game.
"This comes from when we are training with them. As we train, we play."
The 65-year-old admitted that there was also a longer term aspect to his job, looking beyond the AFC under-16 championship qualifiers.
"[We need] to find players who love football, who dream, sleep and eat football," he said.
"Some of our young players are in the comfort zone in training. Look what happened to the under-16s against Liverpool, losing to a younger team is not logical.
"It's very important to give the truth to the players. If they are not good, they must know they are not good. Looking at this game, there's a big job ahead."
Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo