Singapore are gearing up for their AFC Asian Cup 2019 Qualifier against Chinese Taipei on 10 June and head coach V Sundramoorthy banks on his in-form strikers to help the team end its' goal-scoring woes.
The Lions have had a tough time under the 51-year-old tactician ever since he took charge in May 2016. Under Sundram, the 160th-ranked side won only one of their first seven games and also crashed out of last year's AFF Suzuki Cup as early as in the group stages, which also their worst performance in the biennial tournament.
Singapore have been let down by their inability to create and convert opportunities, having scored only six goals in 13 matches under Sundram's reign. However, the team is in a positive frame of mind after holding higher-ranked Bahrain to a 0-0 draw in their opening match of the qualifying campaign in March.
Sundram believes that the team, which is sitting second in Group E behind leaders Turkmenistan, can build on the positive result as quite of few of the Singapore internationals have been performing consistently in the 2017 season of S.League, which has generated a lot of buzz after a lot of high-scoring and tightly-contested ties.
"The problem was with wingers and strikers. So, it is good that Faris [Ramli] has been playing well, and [Khairul] Amri and [Khairul] Nizam are scoring goals in the league. I hope they can translate this form onto the international stage," Sundram said, as quoted by The New Paper.
"Hassan [Sunny] can be counted upon in goal, and we have options in defence and midfield with the likes of Hariss [Harun], Safuwan [Baharudin] and Yasir [Hanapi], as well as Izzdin [Shafiq] and Shahdan [Sulaiman] coming back from injury."
Faris has gone on to establish himself as a key striker at Home United. The 26-year-old, with good support from Stipe Plazibat and Nizam, has netted seven goals this season, which includes four when the Protectors decimated 2015 champions Brunei DPMM last month. Tampines Rovers' Amri has also been in good form with four goals in the league so far.
Singapore skipper Shahril Ishak, who was benched during their ill-fated AFF Suzuki Cup campaign, has been playing a key role with Warriors FC and the veteran eyes a return to the playing XI.
Notably, the Lions will play an international friendly against Myanmar on 6 June, three days ahead of their meeting with Chinese Taipei, who were crushed 3-1 by Turkmenistan in their opening encounter. While Sundram is not willing to underestimate their lower-ranked opposition, he believes a win next Saturday will brighten their chances of qualifying for the Asian Cup.
"Holding Bahrain away and bringing a point back give a lot of confidence to the team. That brings belief that we can play a good game and get a positive result against a stronger team. It's a great boost. We cannot take Taiwan lightly. They held Vietnam to a 1-1 draw before losing 3-1 to Turkmenistan in March," the former Tampines coach added.
"They are a well-organised side with good individuals who can turn games around, but getting the three points against them at home will be key to putting us in a good position to qualify."