Stange refusing to entertain Singapore criticism

Singapore coach Bernd Stange said much more respect should be shown to the Lions for attaining 10 points in the joint World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers so far, instead of focusing only on their performances. 

Singapore started off their World Cup qualifying campaign with a bang last June, with a 4-0 thrashing of Cambodia in Phnom Penh and a stupendous 0-0 draw against Japan in Saitama.

Their unbeaten run was then ended by Syria in a 1-0 away defeat three months later and they have flattered to deceive in the subsequent four straight home matches.

The Lions were a tad lucky to scrape past both Afghanistan and Cambodia, before going down to the top guns in Group E, Japan and Syria, with limp performances.

The lacklustre performances have added to the fans’ mounting frustrations, with many calling for Stange to go when his contract expires on April 15.

However, Stange clearly did not share their sentiments.

In response to a reporter’s question during the pre-match press conference on the need for a convincing performance to win back the fans in Thursday night's friendly against Myanmar, Stange shot back in fiery fashion.

“What does it mean to have a good performance?” he rebutted. “We have 10 points in this group and we want to be judged based on our results.

“The world rankings are crucial. Our points tally is better than other Southeast Asian nations like Vietnam, Malaysia and Philippines, so I don’t allow anyone to be too negative about our performances.

“Against Syria, we had a great chance to make history; but because of a lack of discipline that resulted in an early red card (Madhu Mohana was sent off in the 55th minute), we were not able to get a draw or a win to put us in the driving seat for direct qualification into the Asian Cup.

Madhu Mohana is suspended after his red card against Syria. Photo: FAS

“This is an all-local team without any foreign-born players; we can’t get players like Jordan Webb and (Sirina) Camara, who wants to play for the national team, so I’m happy with how we did so far.”

With no international matches since the 2-1 defeat to Syria four months ago, Stange is intrigued by how his side will fare against Myanmar before travelling to Tehran, Iran to face Afghanistan in its final Group E game four days later.

“We had a huge break since November, so journalists and fans will be curious to see how we’ll perform ahead of the important game in Tehran,” said the 68-year-old German.

“It’ll be a match between two different teams. We’ve an average age of 25 to 26 while Myanmar have a really young squad, with players coming from their successful Under-20 World Cup team last year.

“We’ve a good squad with players coming from clubs in Thailand, Malaysia and top S.League clubs like Home (United) and Tampines (Rovers). We had three training sessions together and the players are motivated. The spirit is good, so personally I’ve a good feeling for this game.

“Every game for the national team is crucial, so the players have to play at their best level against Myanmar.”

Main Photo: Weixiang Lim / FFT