Singapore-Japan World Cup qualifier: It's party time, says Stange

Singapore coach Bernd Stange.
Singapore coach Bernd Stange.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic.
Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Singapore coach buoyant despite Amri's absence, Japan counterpart wants revenge for 'bad memory' in Saitama

Two teams separated by 102 places in the Fifa rankings will cross swords once again, yet, in a twist of fate, the heat is arguably more on the favourites.

On paper, it looks like world No. 50 Japan, with their stable of European-based stars, will overwhelm Singapore in the World Cup qualifier at the National Stadium today (Thursday, Nov 12).

However, an unexpected 0-0 draw between the two teams in Saitama five months ago, which led to the home fans booing their idols off the pitch, has altered the equation somewhat.

DIFFICULT TASK AHEAD

This time, it will be more difficult because the opponent is playing at home but we've the quality to win.

VAHID HALILHODZIC, Japan coach

POSITIVE OUTLOOK FOR TEAM

We'll never say it is Mission Impossible because we have players who can step up. We have leaders in our team.

BERND STANGE, Singapore coach

  • KALLANG SET TO ROAR TONIGHT

  • The 55,000-capacity National Stadium looks set to be packed for today's game between Singapore and Japan, which kicks off at 7.15pm.

    A Football Association of Singapore spokesman said all Cat 1 tickets are sold out while more than 65 per cent of tickets have been snapped up as at 3pm yesterday.

    Tickets for the other categories, including concession tickets, can be bought at www.sportshubtix.sg.

    • CAT 2: $38 / $20*

    • CAT 3: $28 / $15*

    • CAT 4: $18 / $10*

    * Concession rates: For students aged 16 and below, and senior citizens aged 60 and above.

 
 

So while the Samurai Blue are understandably anxious to stamp their authority today, Singapore coach Bernd Stange was in a sunnier disposition at Wednesday's pre-match press conference.

In one line, he summarised the contrast in moods between the two camps: "It's party time." The German added: "We'll never say it is Mission Impossible because we have players who can step up.

"We have leaders in our team."

Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic, on the other hand, vowed revenge for what he said was "a bad memory". In a conference room at the Amara Hotel packed mostly with Japanese media, he said: "For the players, it will be a revenge game.

"This time, it will be more difficult because the opponent is playing at home but we've the quality to win."

The Bosnian warded off suggestions that Japan took the June match against Singapore lightly.

"In the first game against Singapore, we did everything to win but we couldn't.

"I don't want to put more pressure on the players but we need to have more determination."

He did, however, chuckle when asked if his men are looking to tame the Lions by a big margin.

"The most important thing is to win but, of course, we have to score as much as possible. That is the motto of the team - I want to attack and score," said Halilhodzic.

Since the draw, Japan have triumphed in their next three games, scoring 12 goals and conceding none. Led by AC Milan star Keisuke Honda and Borussia Dortmund's Shinji Kagawa, the four-time Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup champions are odds on to cement top spot in Group E and advance to the third round of qualifiers.

Singapore, meanwhile, lost 0-1 to Syria before bouncing back with home wins against Afghanistan (1-0) and Cambodia (2-1).

Stange remains optimistic, even if chief striker Khairul Amri is out with a hamstring injury.

"(The draw) was an unexpected result. Even I couldn't believe how we managed that but we did it.

"We are better prepared than our last two matches against Afghanistan and Cambodia. We are fresher, and I'm very curious to see what we can deliver tomorrow."

The former Belarus coach also challenged his players to seize the limelight, the same way goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud did with his 18-save performance in Saitama.

Izwan has been linked with trials in the J-League. Said Stange: "You are not recognised if you play in the Malaysian Super League or even in Singapore... but if you play Japan and announce (yourself) with a performance... then I think you won't play (any) longer here in Singapore or Malaysia.

"It is a great opportunity for every single player to set the mark and to tell the world 'I want a job in Europe'."

SINGAPORE v JAPAN

Singtel TV Ch109, 6.30pm, National Stadium, 7.15pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2015, with the headline 'Party time, says Stange'. Print Edition | Subscribe