SINGAPORE - There is still plenty of work for Fandi Ahmad to do if the national Under-23 coach is to mould the next generation of footballers into a force to be reckoned with.
But first, after last night's 3-0 defeat by the Indonesia Under-23s, the Young Lions still have some way to go to show the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) that they meet the criteria to go to the Asian Games in Indonesia in August.
As a former Lion, Fandi would insist the necessary ingredients include a healthy dose of heart and drive, which the Singapore Under-23s do not lack.
But, as a former national striker, the 55-year-old knows that goals win games and tournaments, and put bums on seats.
There were three such moments which had the National Stadium purring yesterday.
Unfortunately for the hosts, the moments of magic all came from the Garuda Muda as midfielder Febri Haryadi glided past his opposite number Hami Syahin before unleashing a right-footed piledriver from 30 metres into the top corner two minutes before the break.
There was a sense of deja vu six minutes after the restart, as Muhammad Hargianto cut in from the left to net from a similar distance.
In the 65th minute, Singapore's Akbar Shah shanked a shot that almost went out for a throw-in, but the visitors kept it in play as Febri scorched the left flank before laying off for substitute Septian David to score the third.
Young Lions goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad cannot be blamed for the goals conceded, as he had already done well to parry Febri's 18th-minute belter and deny Ezra Walian from a one-on-one situation seven minutes later.
The hosts' biggest threat came just after the opener, when Hami's free kick was narrowly headed over by skipper Illyas Lee in first-half stoppage time. But the gulf in quality was clear.
With the new Singapore Premier League season starting next week, Fandi should work on improving the Young Lions' organisation, understanding, decision-making and set pieces.
As for the Asian Games, the SNOC's qualification criteria is to match the top-six result at a previous Games, or to beat opponents ranked at least sixth on the continent.
Unless the Young Lions play more international matches against better opponents like they would at the Asian Games, they will find it hard to improve. For example, 10 of the Indonesia Under-23s' starting XI are already capped at the senior level.
With Fifa windows in shortage between now and August, it looks like the Young Lions are in the last-chance saloon at next month's Under-21 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy in Brunei - which should feature the likes of Vietnam and Thailand, who finished fourth at the last Asiad.
Singapore Under-23s: Zharfan Rohaizad, Shahrin Saberin (Amirul Adli 69), Illyas Lee, Faizal Roslan, Zulqarnaen Suzliman, Umar Ramlee (Rusyaidi Salime 55), Hami Syahin (Amiruldin Asraf 80), Justin Hui (Adam Swandi 31), Syahrul Sazali (Naqiuddin Eunos 77), Naufal Azman (Akbar Shah 59), Ikhsan Fandi.
Indonesia Under-23s: Awan Setho, Putu Gede (Gavin Kwan 61), Andi Setyo, Ricky Fajrin, Rezaldi Hehanusa (Bagas Adi 77), Muhd Hargianto (Hanif Sjahbandi 77), Zulfiandi, Osvaldo Haay (Septian David 46), Saddil Ramdani (Egy Maulana 85), Febri Haryadi, Ezra Walian (Ilham Armaiyn 61).
Shots: Singapore Under-23s - 2 on target, 3 off target; Indonesia Under-23s - 6 on target, 5 off target.
Corners: Singapore Under-23s - 2, Indonesia Under-23s - 10.
Yellow cards: Singapore Under-23s - 1 (Rusyaidi Salime)