Football: Under-fire Stange set for 6-month extension?

The Lions, with Safuwan Baharudin (centre) in the thick of action, went down 0-4 to Qatar in a friendly match in Doha, ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Syria.
The Lions, with Safuwan Baharudin (centre) in the thick of action, went down 0-4 to Qatar in a friendly match in Doha, ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Syria.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

More than three points will be at stake when the Lions take on Syria in a key football World Cup qualifier on Thursday.

The Sunday Times has learnt that Singapore coach Bernd Stange is set to earn a six-month contract extension - as long as his side avoid a lop-sided defeat in Muscat, Oman.

This will allow the German - whose contract expires at the end of next month - to oversee the rest of the team's qualifying campaign.

It kicked off with a 4-0 whitewash of Cambodia and a surprise 0-0 draw with Japan.

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) was set to wield the axe on Stange, who replaced Serb Raddy Avramovic in May 2013.

In 28 matches in charge of the Lions, his record stands at 12 wins, four draws and 12 defeats.

Fans turned on the 67-year-old after a disappointing group-stage exit at the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup last November, as well as a recent six-month winless streak.

Last month, Stange was even chided by his employers for engaging in a public spat with former national Under-23 coach Aide Iskandar over tactics and player selection during the SEA Games in June.

His long-time assistant Harald Irmscher was released last month while no assurances were offered over the German's own future.

The Sunday Times understands that the FAS plans to wait until after the Syria match to confirm Stange's contract extension.

In fact, many of the national players were under the impression that the Syria game would be his swansong.

But sources said the FAS has since decided to stick with the former Belarus coach, believing he has earned the right to remain at the helm at least until their final second-round qualifier away to Afghanistan on March 29 next year.

As one senior FAS official put it: "How many Asean countries will sack a coach who just led them to a 0-0 draw against Japan?"

The FAS is also said to be undecided on his successor.

The association is torn between scouring the globe for another foreign coach or handing the job to fan favourites Fandi Ahmad or V. Sundramoorthy.

The duo are keen to take on the top post but choosing one over the other is a decision that the association's top brass seemingly do not want to take now.

The duo had assisted Stange for the memorable draw against Japan in June, earning praise from the dressing room for their tactical expertise and training methods.

However, with Fandi, Sundram and Stange together on the bench on Friday, Singapore still fell 0-4 to Qatar in a friendly in Doha.

The hosts are ranked 95th in the world, 60 spots above the Lions.

An encouraging first-half display was swiftly undone after the break, with substitute goalkeeper Hassan Sunny conceding all four goals in a chaotic 23-minute spell.

There was cheer for one Singaporean though. Khairul Amri captained the side in his 100th game, joining the likes of Fandi and Malek Awab in the Lions' centurion club.

After the match, Stange said his team's "excellent" combination play in the first half did not warrant such a heavy defeat.

"Everything changed in the second half and we have to find a reason for the breakdown - maybe it was the time difference, the climate or our substitutes are not good enough for this level of football," he noted.

"It is a warning for my team.

"If we lose our concentration for a single minute, we will not get the result we want against Syria."

WATCH IT LIVE: Syria v Singapore (Fifa World Cup 2018 Group E qualifier)

Channels: MediaCorp’s Okto channel and Singtel TV’s Eleven (Singtel TV Channel 109).

Time: 11.55pm Thursday (Sept 3)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 30, 2015, with the headline 'Under-fire Stange set for 6-month extension?'. Print Edition | Subscribe