SINGAPORE - After a seven-month wait, the Lions will play at the National Stadium again, and also welcome a new ringmaster.
The Straits Times understands that the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) will unveil Tatsuma Yoshida as the new national coach this week, after announcing on Monday (May 27) two international friendlies against Solomon Islands on June 8 and Myanmar on June 11.
The national coach position has been vacant since Fandi Ahmad's interim stint ended following Singapore's group-stage elimination at the AFF Suzuki Cup in November 2018. The Lions last played at the Sports Hub in a 6-1 group-stage win over Timor-Leste in that tournament. Former international Nazri Nasir led the team as caretaker in their international friendlies in March 2019.
FAS general secretary Yazeen Buhari said: "The upcoming international window is a vital period for the national team to gather for centralised training and friendly matches, especially for the overseas players.
"The two friendlies will help the team build momentum from the positive performances in the last international window. In addition, these matches will also aid the team in their preparations for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers which will be played later this year."
The Lions acquitted themselves well in their last two friendlies at the Airmarine Cup in Malaysia, where they beat the hosts 1-0 and held Oman to a 1-1 draw before a penalty shootout defeat in March.
Yazeen added: "We made a deliberate attempt to schedule the June matches at the Home of the Lions in order for our fans to be able to support and rally the Lions at our very own National Stadium.
"We are also thankful to have the support of our venue partner, Singapore Sports Hub, who made it possible for the friendlies to be played at the Home of the Lions."
While world No. 139 Solomon Islands and Myanmar (140th) are hardly glamour teams, they represent decent opponents Singapore (160th) have a realistic chance to get a positive result against.
A win or a draw would add Fifa ranking points as the Lions bid to squeeze into the top 32 Asian teams - they are currently 33rd - and move up from the fifth pot into the fourth pot, for a potentially more favourable World Cup qualifiers draw in July.
National skipper Hariss Harun said: "We want to carry on the momentum from our previous friendlies and go for the wins in these two games.
"The new coach will have his own ideas and the faster the players can adapt, the better it will be for the national team, and we are looking forward to working with him."
In February, ST had revealed Yoshida as the frontrunner for the national coach position. The Chiba native was a central midfielder and started his playing career with hometown club Kashiwa Reysol before turning out for Kyoto Sanga and Montedio Yamagata.
In 2002, he signed for Jurong FC and played under former Singapore coach V. Sundram Moorthy, then player-coach for the Cobras.
After hanging up his boots that year, Yoshida returned to Reysol, where he rose through the ranks from youth-team coach to technical director and then the head coach.
Although he lasted just one season each as head coach of Reysol (2015) and Albirex Niigata (2016), and was also sacked by Ventforet Kofu last year, it was his youth development work that impressed FAS as he helped produce some Japan internationals such as Marseille right-back Hiroki Sakai.