Football: Tardy and Young Lions raring to tackle tough back-to-back competitions

Young Lions competing against India’s U-23 side during a friendly match at Choa Chu Kang Stadium on July 9, 2017.
Young Lions competing against India’s U-23 side during a friendly match at Choa Chu Kang Stadium on July 9, 2017.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - In the space of one month, the Young Lions will find themselves in two highly intense competitions but Football Association of Singapore (FAS) head coach of national youth teams Richard Tardy has welcomed the chance to push himself and the national Under-22 team to the limit.

The Young Lions will play hosts Myanmar on July 19, continental powerhouse Australia on July 21 and Brunei on July 23 in Group F of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 Championship qualifier.

And in August, Tardy's men will face the hosts Malaysia, Myanmar, Brunei and Laos, in the round-robin stage of the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

But the Frenchman believes having two major competitions so close to each other will benefit his team. He said on Friday (July 14) during a press conference at Jalan Besar Stadium: "It has been one year that we were waiting for these tournaments and now, it is time for the official tournament. It is good (to play two competitions back-to-back) because after the tournament in Myanmar, we can show what is good and bad so that we can react immediately. We will be going to Australia for nine days (for a training tour), it will be good as we can find solutions fast.

"It is also good because we will play Myanmar and Brunei (in both competitions) in Kuala Lumpur. It's good because sometimes my players have difficulties starting a tournament. For us, we'll be stronger (by playing in consecutive tournaments)."

While Singapore had never qualified for the finals of the biennial continental competition, now into its third edition, the team is itching to break its regional hoodoo of having never won the SEA Games gold.

For striker Muhaimin Suhaimi, it will be do or die in Kuala Lumpur: "I didn't manage to get into the final 20 (squad) for the last SEA Games, that really taught me a lot. Hopefully, this SEA Games will be very different for me and the country. I'm sure the team will be ready to give their 110 per cent for the country.

"The SEA Games is the most important tournament for Singapore, especially for us players because it will help a lot in our portfolio. It's either we go all out, or you get nothing."

FAS vice-president Razali Saad added: "The SEA Games is special to us. As a former player myself, I completely understand the pressure the players are experiencing. There is a lot of stress, a lot of pressure on them. It doesn't help that Singapore has never won gold (in football) at the SEA Games before."