Late lapses show Singapore's Lions still need to solve fitness concerns

As the Thais chased every ball against the Socceroos, the Lions ran out of puff against Turkmenistan. Singapore may have a smaller talent pool than their regional rivals, but there’s no excuse for being less fit, argues Neil Humphreys.

Singapore ran out of legs and conceded a late goal in a crucial Asian Cup qualifier on home soil. National coach V. Sundramoorthy conceded as much as Turkmenistan snatched an equaliser 10 minutes from time in their 1-1 draw at Jalan Besar Stadium.

That was earlier this week.

Hariss eats right, works hard and is a role model. I hope more can follow in his footsteps

Former national coach Bernd Stange once spoke of Japan's superior "experience" as Singapore slumped to a 3-0 defeat at the National Stadium, but the inference was clear. The Samurai Blue's energy bunnies had outlasted their opponents.

That was in November 2015.

National youth coach Richard Tardy bemoaned the Young Cubs' lack of fitness after the under-15 and under-16 teams performed poorly at the Lion City Cup on home soil.

That was in August 2015.

The Lions were outclassed by Japan at home

The singers may change, but the song remains the same.

Thailand, however, marched to a different beat in midweek. They toiled in the unfamiliar wintry conditions of Melbourne against a vastly superior nation seeking World Cup qualification.

The obdurate Thais refused to yield and almost pinched a point. Australia’s 86th-minute winner broke the deadlock, but not the visitors’ spirit

The Socceroos conjured an astonishing 45 shots on goal, but the obdurate Thais refused to yield and almost pinched a point. Australia’s 86th-minute winner broke the deadlock, but not the visitors’ spirit.

More importantly, their fitness did not fail them. But it failed the Lions once more.

One of professional sport’s basic prerequisites continues to be an area of concern in Singapore’s only professional sport.

Sundram sent out a positive formation against Turkmenistan, opting for a 3-4-3 and demanding less plodding and more penetration. The Lions’ second-half lead was well deserved. Victory was theirs for the taking.

Singapore were agonisingly close to victory against Turkmenistan

And they likely would have achieved it if it wasn’t for pesky fitness problems.

Injury or cramp took out three Lions within 75 minutes. Injuries come with the territory and can strike the fittest of players, but premature cramp can be prevented.

Tiring ahead of their opponents is a tough reality to accept in a home fixture

Yet lethargy struck the Lions and Turkmenistan knocked in an equaliser with 10 minutes left.

Sundram conceded that his players ran out of energy before their opponents, pointing to the professionalism of Hariss Harun as the example the rest of his troops should follow.

“We tired faster than our opponents,” he admitted candidly. “Hariss can play another game. He eats right, works hard and is a role model.

“I hope more can follow in his footsteps.”

Tiring ahead of their opponents is a tough reality to accept in a home fixture.

Hariss is exemplary in his professionalism, said Sundram

Singapore already suffer from a shrinking talent pool so it seems almost masochistic to straitjacket the squad further by not being fit enough.

But we’ve been here before.

[NEXT UP: Confronting a long-term handicap]