The suspense over the identity of the new national football coach will linger for another three months, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said yesterday.
FAS general secretary Yazeen Buhari said: "We are at the tail end of the process. And we should be appointing one (national coach) before the next competition window (official Fifa match dates) in June."
The Lions have been without a coach since exiting the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup in the group stage last December. Then, FAS' head of youth Fandi Ahmad led the team for six months.
Tatsuma Yoshida, a 44-year-old Japanese and former S-League player with Jurong FC and an ex-coach of J-League club Kashiwa Reysol and Albirex Niigata, has been mentioned as a possible front runner for the hot seat.
Yesterday, it was announced that former national captain Nazri Nasir will lead the Lions at the AirMarine Cup held in Kuala Lumpur's Bukit Jalil Stadium on March 20 and 23.
The other teams in the quadrangular are hosts Malaysia, Afghanistan and Oman.
The Lions will meet the Tigers of Malaysia in a Causeway battle on March 20 while Oman play Afghanistan on the same day. The winners will contest the final three days later while the losers will play in the third-place play-off.
Izwan Mahbud (Nongbua Pitchaya), Syazwan Buhari (Tampines Rovers), Zaiful Nizam (Balestier Khalsa)
Amirul Adli, Irwan Shah (both Tampines), Emmeric Ong (Warriors FC), Faritz Hameed (Home United), Nazrul Nazari (Hougang United), Safuwan Baharudin (Pahang), Shakir Hamzah (Kedah)
Izzdin Shafiq (Home), M. Anumanthan, Zulfahmi Arifin (both Hougang), Hariss Harun (Johor Darul Takzim), Huzaifah Aziz (Balestier), Shahdan Sulaiman, Yasir Hanapi (both Tampines)
Faris Ramli, Iqbal Hussain (both Hougang), Gabriel Quak (Warriors), Khairul Amri (Tampines), Khairul Nizam (Warriors)
FAS vice-president Teo Hock Seng, who will be the head of the delegation for the Cup, said: "This is a great opportunity for Singapore football. Malaysia did pretty well in the Suzuki Cup (they lost 3-2 on aggregate to Vietnam in the two-legged final), but I don't think we are too far away from them.
"I will be going up to ensure that we play to win."
Calling the appointment "a privilege and honour", Nazri, 48, said: "It will be do or die, there are no friendlies against Malaysia.
"I am looking at a very attacking team. We want players who have pace, aggression and are explosive. I want to see midfielders coming into the box, taking on players and shooting from outside the box.
"We are all ready to go."
Picking a squad of 22, Nazri has opted for a youthful line-up and decided not to call up 35-year-old veterans Shahril Ishak (138 caps) and Baihakki Khaizan (134).
Home United forward Adam Swandi, 23, the Singapore Premier League Young Player of the Year, was also omitted while goalkeeper Hassan Sunny, 34, is injured.
Said Nazri: "Bai and Shahril had done a lot for the country over the years. They had also done their part in the Suzuki Cup supporting and guiding the younger players. But now is the time to select more younger players."
Baihakki announced his retirement from international football on social media last night, thanking former national coaches Raddy Avramovic and Bernd Stange, FAS coaches and staff, his family and fans for guiding and supporting him since he made his Lions debut against Hong Kong on Aug 4, 2003.
"I hope I have given my best during the 12,240 minutes (of playing for the Lions). I apologise for all my wrongdoing on any occasion as I'm not the most perfect of humans. I'll be joining you soon in the stands, doing the Kallang Roar together as one Singapore," he wrote on Instagram.