After bagging a two-year contract extension, Singapore coach V Sundramoorthy is geared up for upcoming challenges with the national team and he believes that the Lions will do their best in the AFC Asian Cup 2019 Qualifiers and make it to the finals in United Arab Emirates.
Singapore, ranked 163, start their campaign against 127th-ranked Bahrain on 28 March in Riffa and they have been handed a tough draw in Group F, which also has higher-ranked Turkmenistan (144) and Chinese Taipei (159). Ahead of the opening third-round clash, the Lions will play a friendly against Afghanistan on Thursday, which will serve as warm-up for the 23-man squad, who are in good shape after involvement in early league season.
The onus will be on Sundram to repay the trust Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has had on him. Notably, Sundram has not produced the right results so far with the national team, since joining it in May last year. After a string of failures, the Lions headed into last year's AFF Suzuki Cup low on confidence and exited the biennial tournament with only one point and even without winning a game, which was eventually their worst performance in the tournament history.
Also read: Home, Tampines players dominate Lions squad
However, the FAS and Sundram believe that with more time, the latter can help the team achieve positive results. The 51-year-old tactician has now set sights on performing to the best of their abilities in the Asian Cup qualifying campaign but concedes that his men are the "underdogs".
Having lost to Bahrain last year and not beaten them in their last five meetings, Singapore will expect another stiff challenge next Tuesday and Sundram reveals a draw is also a favourable result.
"I am [now] given [more] time to ... work with them [the team]. It is a good direction and we need to focus on the upcoming Asian Cup [qualifiers]. For the Asian Cup, you can see we are the underdogs, [but] we will try to do our best to qualify," Sundram said ahead of the national team's departure to Doha on Monday, as quoted by Today.
"They [Bahrain] have good players, [but] I believe we were unlucky that time [in 2016] by [conceding] three penalties; the second one was really soft, but sometimes this happens in football. We have to pick ourselves up and try to do something. For me, as long as we don't get defeated, I think it will be a good start."
With the addition of Home United teenager Irfan Fandi and the likes of Anumanthan and Warriors FC's uncapped Ho Wai Loon, Sundram has made sure there is a good mix of experience and youth in his squad. He reveals that he is focussed on getting young players, who are performing well in the local league, in the squad.
"We will look at players who are performing better, who are younger, stronger and who can help the national team — that's important. I am going to bring in younger players who have the potential to be future national stars and long-term players," Sundram added.