Singapore must not be overawed by Japan, says Stange

The coach called on his men to play without fear against the Asian giants, while confirming Safuwan Baharudin’s likely absence.

Singapore coach Bernd Stange admitted that upcoming opponents Japan vastly outmatched his team in terms of quality, but still backed his men to have their say in Tuesday’s clash.

The Lions travel to Saitama Stadium 2002 for the joint World Cup 2018 and AFC Asian Cup 2019 qualifying match as severe underdogs against the Group E favourites.

Yet Stange insists there may be a chance of causing an upset if Singapore can limit the offensive strengths of their fancied hosts before hitting back hard on the break, urging his men to remain calm under pressure.

“We are all looking forward to facing Japan, a great team above our level,” the German began to reporters at a pre-match press conference.

“I know Japan will be keeping the ball all the time, creating lots of trouble for us and aiming to dominate, but I just want us to stay calm and play the way we can, without fear.

“I want our boys to have confidence and remain focused throughout in order to avoid making silly and unnecessary mistakes.

“We’ll try and stay compact defensively and hopefully we can create our own chances. We have effective players on the counterattack but we’ll need luck and unbelievable commitment.

“The quality of the respective teams will ultimately be decisive.”

Singapore suffered a blow when Safuwan Baharudin left the squad following their opening 4-0 win over Cambodia last Thursday, although Stange stated his team otherwise remain at the peak of their preparations.

“Safuwan, one of our key players, left us on Sunday to attend to familial issues and it’s unlikely he will be able to play in this important game,” he continued.

“Qualifying campaigns are like marathons with suspensions and injuries, and Safuwan’s absence is something we’re prepared for. We must overcome such difficulties and be ready for all eventualities.

“Otherwise, we’re very lucky not to have any injuries, and the medical staff and coaches have done a great job preparing the best available team.

“It’s very useful for me as coach to have the power of choice in my selection. We haven’t needed to motivate any of the players ahead of such a game.

“All the players present here want to be part of this great footballing occasion against Japan.”

A result for Singapore at Saitama Stadium 2002 will leave the Lions in a strong position to progress to the third round of qualifying after the opening pair of fixtures.

Image credit: Football Association of Singapore