Stange challenges Singapore's players to prove their credentials
Singapore’s 0-0 draw against Japan in Saitama back in June shocked the footballing world, or at least Asian football, with goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud propelled into the spotlight after his 18-save feat.
The 25-year-old has been attracting interest from a couple of J-League clubs since then, with Stange emphasising to his players that these are the kind of games which will help them secure a dream move to Asia’s top leagues or even Europe.
On Thursday the two sides will lock horns again, five months on from that infamous night.
“So many journalists have been discussing who is capable of playing abroad or in Europe – the answers will be tomorrow,” said the Singapore coach at the pre-match press conference at the Amara Hotel.
“You’re not recognised as a player if you play in Singapore or Malaysia; you’re not even recognised when you play against Afghanistan and Cambodia. But if you play well against Japan just like how my goalkeeper did, people will recognise the outstanding performance and you’ll soon no longer play here.
“This is the best day for every single player to show (bigger clubs) that ‘I’m here, I set my mark, please take me!’“
That result in Saitama set the tone for Singapore in this joint World Cup and Asian Cup qualifying campaign as they are currently in a strong position to at least make it through to the next round of Asian Cup qualification.
Stange believes it is not beyond his Lions to produce another shock result.
“Unlike individual sports, in a team sport like football, you can make surprises because it’s 11 versus 11,” explained the 67-year-old, who famously inspired Belarus to a shock 1-0 away win against France in the Euro 2012 qualifiers.
“If I have a board here, I can show you all the games in the world where the second or third division teams are beating the top teams.
“Thus I’ll never say that it is mission impossible for us because we have leaders in the team who can step up.
“It’ll be party time for the players and fans tomorrow. We’re all curious to find out tomorrow if that 0-0 draw was an accident or we can deliver another surprise again."
Despite missing key frontman Khairul Amri through a hamstring injury, Stange is confident there will be adequate depth within his side to cover his absence.
“If we want to go all the way to the 2019 Asian Cup, we have to learn how to substitute players,” he stressed.
“Amri is important to us, but we have to cover for unexpected things like injuries and suspensions if we want to progress further. We have to develop more young players in our football ecosystem, so that we can substitute such players in the future.
“I’m confident that we can cope without Amri. Tomorrow’s game will start 0-0 again and we have to defend for this point.”
Photo: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo