Football: Lions have to step up, says Sundram

Ikhsan Fandi, 18, may be offered the chance to make his Lions debut against Hong Kong and impress coach V. Sundram Moorthy. The striker scored one goal during Singapore's ill-fated campaign at the SEA Games.
Ikhsan Fandi, 18, may be offered the chance to make his Lions debut against Hong Kong and impress coach V. Sundram Moorthy. The striker scored one goal during Singapore's ill-fated campaign at the SEA Games.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

S'pore go into HK friendly aware that positive results are needed to renew Asian Cup hopes

National football coach V. Sundram Moorthy has called on his charges to "step up", amid the negativity surrounding local football.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday morning ahead of tonight's friendly against Hong Kong, he said: "Looking at what's happening, I think the national team need to step up.

"From my point of view, we are ready to bounce back and try to put ourselves right against Hong Kong and Turkmenistan."

After today's game, the Lions face a crucial tie against Turkmenistan, with their 2019 Asian Cup qualifying hopes on the line.

"I feel that the match is very good preparation for the game against Turkmenistan, because Hong Kong physically will be strong and similar to the Turkmens," Sundram added.

Singapore have not enjoyed good results across the board in recent months, with the Cubs losing all five games in the Asean Football Federation U-15 championship in July, including a 2-0 defeat by minnows Laos. Last week, the U-22s were also eliminated in the group stage at the SEA Games, failing to meet their semi-final target.

The Lions meanwhile, have slipped to 171st in the world rankings. They last won more than eight months ago - a 1-0 friendly victory against Cambodia last November.

There is also uncertainty at the Football Association of Singapore, as it waits to discover the quantum of funding from national sports agency Sport Singapore for the next financial year.

These factors combined mean the mood surrounding Singapore football is not at its most buoyant.

Lions vice-captain Hariss Harun said that the team are acutely aware of the importance of the next run of fixtures. Singapore, with a draw against Bahrain (0-0) and a loss to Chinese Taipei (1-2), are currently bottom of Group E in qualifying and need to beat the Central Asians at Jalan Besar next Tuesday to revive their Asian Cup hopes.

Said Hariss: "We talk about it (the importance) all the time, we want to win every game we play. What happened in previous games has passed, we learn and we move on.

"We are together (as a team), but I think what can bring about a more positive mood not only around the team but state of Singapore football will be (positive) results."

The Lions will first have to contend with a strong Hong Kong team, themselves preparing for their Group B qualifier against Malaysia in Malacca.

The Dragons have not lost to Singapore since 2012, chalking up three wins and a draw, and come into the tie on the back of impressive draws against Asian powerhouses North Korea and Jordan.

Head coach Kim Pan Gon put the contrasting fortunes of the two sides down to the local league. The Korean said: "In Hong Kong we also put much effort into developing young potential players for the senior side. For our side, our league is more competitive... that helps make our national team become more competitive."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2017, with the headline 'Sundram: Lions have to step up'. Print Edition | Subscribe