Ex-Lions urge Singapore to fight for redemption after Asian Cup draw

It was a dismal 2016 for Singapore football and three of the country's former internationals believe the Lions' priority must be restoring the fans’ faith, whether or not they qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup. 

The Lions drew Bahrain, Turkmenistan and Taiwan in Group E and need to finish among the top two to qualify for the tournament for the first time. Singapore competed in 1984 by virtue of being hosts.

“To be honest, basically we got the better group, considering the top-two teams can go through,” retired striker Aleksandar Duric told FourFourTwo.

“We can even be top if we prepare ourselves well. Bahrain are not the best Middle East team around and we have shown we can match the likes of Syria in recent years.”

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Singapore has a chance to join Thailand at the big stage

Duric, in particular, asserted that the Lions have to grab the opportunity presented to them, especially after a dismal 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup display.

Singapore exited at the group stage after failing to win a single game and only scored one measly goal to cap a forgettable tournament.

“We need to forget the Suzuki Cup — that's a tournament that has even lower prestige than the Asian Cup,” he said.

We need to forget the Suzuki Cup — that's a tournament that has even lower prestige than the Asian Cup

- Duric

“This is the perfect group — we are lucky for this draw but we cannot forget we need to play better than we did at the Suzuki Cup. Bahrain is the strongest and Turkmenistan is an unknown quantity but it's all in our hands, we have a good draw.”

Hougang United Prime League coach Robin Chitrakar also echoed Duric’s view and called on the younger generation of footballers to fulfil their potential.

“I have coached most of the younger internationals when they were with the Young Lions and National Football Academies and they haven’t fulfilled their potential,” Chitrakar said.

“Honestly we have a lot of potential and I think they can achieve what previous generations have failed to achieve.

“They just need to have belief in themselves going forward and have faith in national coach V.Sundramoorthy.”

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The young stars must step up this year and fulfil their potential

Legendary marksman Indra Sahdan was more skeptical of the Lions’ chances going into the qualifiers, but he challenged the current batch to better Singapore’s class of 2007.

At current form, I don’t think it’ll be possible (for them to advance). But I’m sure they will do their best to qualify

- Indra

The Lions began their 2007 Asian Cup qualifying campaign with an upset 2-0 win over Iraq and subsequently gave China and Palestine a run for their money in Group E, although they eventually finished in third place and failed to advance.

“At current form, I don’t think it’ll be possible (for them to advance). But knowing some of the boys in the team, I’m very sure they will do their best to qualify and to do much better than the 2007 squad,” Indra shared with FourFourTwo.

“It’ll really be good for Singapore football if the team does go to the tournament proper.

“They just have to work harder and try their very best, because that’s the best players in Singapore that they have in the national team.”

Photo: Weixiang Lim/FFT