Stange: Focus on winning, not racking up the goals

Singapore coach Bernd Stange wants his side to concentrate on getting the three points against Cambodia in their World Cup/Asian Cup qualifier on Tuesday night, not on boosting their goal difference.

Only the winners of the eight qualifying groups and the four best runners-up will advance to the third round of 2018 World Cup qualifiers, as well as qualify directly for the 2019 Asian Cup.

With Japan widely expected to top Group E, it looks like a two-way fight for the crucial second spot, with Syria on nine points and Singapore on seven.

Goal difference may well be a crucial factor, with the Syrians on +10 while Singapore are on +4. This upcoming game against Cambodia appears the perfect opportunity to rack up the goals and close the gap, but Stange is keen to temper expectations of a big scoreline on Tuesday night.

“These demands are too high,” rebutted the 67-year-old during the pre-match press conference which was held at Amara Hotel on Monday afternoon.

My demand to the players is simple – please win this game and take the three points

“You see second-placed teams like UAE (United Arab Emirates) beating Malaysia 10-0 and having a healthy goal difference, so it’s already very difficult to go through even if you finish second. We should be more realistic and we should not demand scoring goals.

“What happens if it’s 0-0 after 60 minutes? The disappointment and pressure will come after not scoring an early goal. We have to avoid that from happening.”

After a disjointed display against Afghanistan last time out, Stange revealed he and the rest of the Singapore backroom staff have been hard at work as they look to set things right.

“We had a couple of busy days after our painful but successful game against Afghanistan,” said the former Belarus coach.

Stange is focused on only one thing – three points

“Our backroom staff have been working hard till 2.30 in the morning. On Friday, we had recovery, match analysis and individual talks with those who played and the unused substitutes. On Saturday, we had some training and limbering.

“On Sunday night, we had training at Geylang field which was the final test and I will say we’re ready to go. We have a couple of injury doubts in Shaiful (Esah) and Hafiz (Sujad), so we have to make a couple of changes.

“We’ll definitely only bring fit players and we’re going to work extremely hard to beat Cambodia.”

However Stange stopped short of promising a better display than against Afghanistan, preferring to focus on getting the all-important three points.

“If you want to win, you have to either play well or require some luck,” he explained.

“Against Syria, we were unlucky to lose but against Afghanistan, we had big luck to win. Of course we cannot depend on the game of luck, but most importantly we’re not in a position now to play amazing football.

“Even our (LionsXII) players have problems playing in the Malaysia Super League and it is a long way to go. There’s a way to play better, I know the fans and journalists are always demanding for better performances.

“But my demand to the players is simple – please win this game and take the three points. After that we have another month to prepare for the important games against Japan and Syria. The demands of good performances should come after good results.”

Tickets to all of Singapore's huge upcoming World Cup qualifiers, including the clashes with Cambodia, Japan and Syria, are now on sale. Get yours from Sports Hub Tix, by calling the hotline at +65 6333 5000/+65 3158 7888, by visiting the Singapore Indoor Stadium box office or dropping into any SingPost outlet islandwide.

Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo