Football: Table-topping Lions buoyant ahead of Syria game in 2018 AFC World Cup qualifiers

Singapore's coach Bernd Stange at the AFF Suzuki Cup between Singapore and Malaysia at the National Stadium, on Nov 29, 2014.
Singapore's coach Bernd Stange at the AFF Suzuki Cup between Singapore and Malaysia at the National Stadium, on Nov 29, 2014.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

There was a buzz of excitement among the 16 national footballers at the Geylang Field yesterday, as they trained together for the first time since June.

The reason is their lofty standing in the 2018 AFC World Cup qualifiers - perched at top spot in Group E, ahead of Japan, Syria, Afghanistan and Cambodia.

Granted, it is still early days for Bernd Stange's men since they have played only two qualifying matches so far.

However, the 4-0 rout of Cambodia in Phnom Penh and the heroic goalless draw with Japan in Saitama have given the Lions a boost ahead of their third qualifier against Syria in Muscat, Oman on Sept 3.

"After four points from two away games, we are in the driving seat," said Stange. "We achieved something that other teams will not do - we took points from Japan."

  • LIONS SQUAD

  • Goalkeepers: Hassan Sunny, Izwan Mahbud, Zaiful Nizam

  • Defenders: Baihakki Khaizan, Safuwan Baharudin, Madhu Mohana, Shaiful Esah, Shakir Hamzah, Faritz Abdul Hameed

  • Midfielders: Shahril Ishak, Hariss Harun, Adam Swandi, Gabriel Quak, Yasir Hanapi, Izzdin Shafiq, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Zulfahmi Arifin, Nazrul Nazari

  • Forwards: Khairul Amri, Khairul Nizam, Faris Ramli, Fazrul Nawaz

The German revealed that his side will look to get a positive result out of the Syria game.

"We will try to manage a good result against Syria because it will bring us closer to making history and qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup for the first time," he said.

"We are aware that we need desire and concentration to achieve a good result. A point against Syria or a win can put us in an outstanding position. We are all united to bring the best out of us."

The Lions will warm up for the Syria tie with a friendly against Qatar in Doha on Friday.

Yesterday, Stange was assisted by LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad, who will be helping out with the squad together with . Fandi and Tampines Rovers head coach V. Sundramoorthy for the next two matches.

A squad of 23 players was announced last night.

Stalwarts Shahril Ishak, Baihakki Khaizan and Hariss Harun, all of whom play for Johor Darul Takzim (JDT), will join the team before the Lions travel to Doha.

Hariss' JDT, who were crowned Malaysia Super League champions on Saturday, face South China in today's AFC Cup quarter-finals.

Baihakki and Shahril will be involved in JDT II's play-off match with Sime Darby tonight, for a place in next month's Malaysia Cup.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2015, with the headline 'Table-topping Lions buoyant ahead of Syria game'. Print Edition | Subscribe