Stange: LionsXII’s Malaysia Cup exit a blessing in disguise

Singapore National Team head coach Bernd Stange feels that the LionsXII’s early elimination from the 2014 Malaysia Cup will aid preparations for the upcoming Asian Games and AFF Suzuki Cup.

While there was disappointment among Singaporean fans over the team's failure to go far in the Malaysia Cup, the German is clearly choosing to see the glass as half-full.

“From last week, we can plan (our preparations) because the LionsXII are out of the competition,” Stange told FourFourTwo after Wednesday evening’s training session, where the LionsXII boys sat out due to exertions from the game against Felda United on Tuesday night.

“Firstly the Football Association of Malaysia put a total of three Cup matches on FIFA dates and on the fourth FIFA date, Brazil is playing Japan at the Sports Hub.

“We had no choice but now we can sit together and plan.”

With a total of 17 under-23 players called up to this 24-strong national team squad for the upcoming games against Papua New Guinea, Stange is prioritizing success at the Asian Games where they will face Tajikistan, Oman and Palestine in the group stages. 

“We’re on track and I’m quite confident,” he said.

“I’ve called up three over-aged players, Hassan (Sunny), Hariss (Harun) and Baihakki (Khaizan), for stability especially in defence.

“That should give us the confidence for this under-age team”

There are a number of fresh faces in the squad, with Stange calling up a total of eight uncapped players including Courts Young Lions trio Fadli Kamis, Stanely Ng and Shameer Aziq.

Despite that, the 66-year-old is keen to play down expectations of racking up a big scoreline against Papua New Guinea on Saturday.

“Many of these players are not ready yet,” he said.

“They’re still young and we should not dream. We do have a big bunch of talents here, but they still have a lot to learn and improve especially in terms of physical strength.

“However the most important thing is that they are committed and enthusiastic.

“I like to work with them and I’ll use a lot of them over these two games.

However the coach remains confident of his striking options despite the unavailability of captain Shahril Ishak and first-choice striker Khairul Amri.

“We have good strikers here,” he insisted.

“Sahil (Suhaimi) is coming, Iqbal (Hussein) is coming, we also have Fazrul and Nizam – that’s four strikers.

“I feel comfortable of this situation.”