Tardy challenges Singapore's Cubs to play like lions

National Youth Teams head coach Richard Tardy believes qualifying for the AFC under-16 championships might be a step too far right now, but he remains hopeful they can at least be competitive on home soil.

Singapore's 'Cubs' are in the same qualifying group as North Korea and Southeast Asian rivals Thailand and Cambodia, with the three visiting teams set to arrive in Singapore at the end of this month.

The tournament proper is held every two years, with the top four teams then progressing to the FIFA under-17 World Cup.

In a candid interview following the Lion City Cup on Sunday, Tardy expressed his belief that Singapore are only an outside chance of progressing from such a strong group.

"We are not at the level of a team like Thailand," he said. "Although we play at home, it will be very difficult.

"Our target is to do our best in this tournament.

"I don't want to set an actual target and be disappointed because sometimes they are not ready to play this kind of game."

The 65-year-old Frenchman, who arrived in Singapore late last month, was speaking after watching Singapore's under-15 and under-16 teams compete in the Lion City Cup.

The under-15s were outclassed in a 3-0 defeat to Tottenham's academy side on Friday, followed by the under-16s' penalty shootout loss to Liverpool, when they fought back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 at the end of 90 minutes.

The older Singapore line-up then overcame their younger compatriots 3-2 in Sunday's third-place play-off.

"In the first game against Tottenham, I told the [under-15] players that you play like schoolboys and not like players from the national team," Tardy said.

"But I am here to change something in the psychology of the young players in the national team."

Tardy also emphasised the need to afford Singapore's youngsters more experience playing against higher quality teams on a regular basis.

"We need to give the possibility of our young players to play outside Singapore," he said. "Not only Malaysia or Cambodia, but in Japan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia or South Korea.

"Friendly tournaments or games will help us progress.

"Look at the [national] under-15s playing in the [FAS Centre of Excellence under-18] league with the under-16s, they win every time.

"It's too easy and we can't progress."

Photo: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo