Football: Fight for AFF Suzuki Cup spot, Sundram tells his Lions

V. Sundramoorthy has challenged his players to play their way into the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup squad.
V. Sundramoorthy has challenged his players to play their way into the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup squad.PHOTO: ST FILE

National caretaker coach V. Sundramoorthy has challenged his players to play their way into the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup squad, with just 15 days left till Singapore's opener against hosts Philippines.

He is in Qatar with a provisional 28-man squad for a five-day training camp. Five players - likely two goalkeepers and three outfield players - will be culled from this list.

The former Tampines Rovers coach said: "It's now the final opportunity for our players to show their hunger, desire and capabilities and prove that they deserve to be in the final squad.

"The upcoming matches (against Syria and Cambodia) will be a key opportunity for them to select themselves for the competition."

Among those fighting for inclusion is playmaker Shahdan Sulaiman, who was called up after recovering from a hairline fracture in his right fibula.

Sundram said the final 23-man squad will be decided after the Lions' friendly against Cambodia on Nov 13. Singapore, ranked 171st in the world, also play world No. 96 Syria in Negeri Sembilan next Wednesday.

At his unveiling in May, Sundram said he is targeting at least a semi-final finish for four-time cup winners Singapore.

To do that, the Lions have to first navigate a tricky group which includes holders Thailand (world No. 146) and Indonesia (179th).

Thailand, who also have four AFF Championship titles, are the only South-east Asian side to reach the third round of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers. Indonesia are no pushovers either, and in September gave a sign of things to come when they beat Malaysia 3-0 in a friendly.

For one thing, improvement is certainly needed. Last month, Singapore were held 0-0 by Malaysia during the Causeway Challenge at the National Stadium and lost 0-2 away in Hong Kong.

To prepare for the tough group, the Lions will play two closed-door friendlies against Qatari clubs.

On his objectives for the Qatar camp, he said: "Our squad comprises players from 11 different clubs and the ability to stay and train together on a daily basis will enable us to work on and strengthen the players' tactical, physical and mental aspects."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2016, with the headline 'Fight for AFF Cup spot: Sundram'. Print Edition | Subscribe