Football: Yoshida extends contract with Lions until Dec 2022, believes in project to build better team

Tatsuma Yoshida will continue with his project of bringing the Lions to the next level. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Japanese tactician Tatsuma Yoshida will continue with his project of bringing the Lions to the next level after agreeing to a contract extension until Dec 2022, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) announced on Friday (Feb 5).

The former Jurong FC player was appointed national coach in June 2019 for an initial two-year deal. His nine games (four friendlies and five World Cup qualifiers) in charge have yielded three wins, two draws and four losses, with notable scalps against Yemen and Palestine, both higher ranked than world No. 158 Singapore.

Yoshida, 46, will lead the Republic through the remaining matches of the World Cup qualification and the next edition of the AFF Suzuki Cup - delayed from last year due to the pandemic and scheduled to be held in December.

The Lions' last outing came in Nov 2019, a 2-1 away win against Yemen in a World Cup qualifier. The Republic did not play a match last year due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Yoshida said: "It was an easy decision for me to continue this project in Singapore because I believe we can still improve and are on our way to becoming a better team."

He added: "I feel the same as I did two years ago when I took this position on - very fresh and with the same motivation to work with my boys, colleagues, the fans and the FAS."

Despite being the lowest-ranked side in Group D of their World Cup and Asian Cup qualifying campaign, Singapore are third with seven points. They lie two points behind leaders Uzbekistan, and one behind second-placed Saudi Arabia. Yemen have five points while Palestine bring up the rear with four.

The top finishers in each of the eight qualifying groups and best four second-placed teams will progress to the third round of World Cup qualifiers and secure a spot at the 2023 Asian Cup in China. The rest will still have opportunities to reach the Asian Cup.

FAS president Lim Kia Tong praised Yoshida's impact and said: "The team has demonstrated a marked improvement in terms of both playing style and results under his charge, which has given everyone the belief that we can become more competitive on the international stage in future."

Former Woodlands Wellington head coach Shasi Kumar, who worked as a commentator for all of the Lions' home matches in the World Cup qualifiers, agreed that under Yoshida, the national team have made good progress.

He added: "In a short period of time, he has turned it around in terms of our style. You can see that the players are playing with more freedom- that comes from the coach. There is a purpose to the football being played. And most importantly with the extension, we are giving him the and the team the continuity they need."

It is not just Yoshida's tactical expertise that stands out, said national captain Hariss Harun.

"The players have benefited from his methods and beliefs and improved under his guidance," noted the Johor Darul Takzim midfielder. "Coach Tatsuma is also very approachable and, together with the rest of the backroom staff, has helped to foster a strong team spirit."

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