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Sunday, Oct 12, 2014

Sports

Stange prepares Lions for Suzuki Cup

The New Paper | Sunday, Oct 12, 2014

National coach Bernd Stange cited Zulfahmi Arifin (middle) as one of his dead-ball specialists.

In less than 50 days, Singapore will defend their AFF Suzuki Cup title.

The Lions begin their final stretch of preparations with two friendlies against Hong Kong tonight and Macau next Tuesday.

In a bid to win the ASEAN crown for a record fifth time, national football coach Bernd Stange is using the two friendlies to iron out as many kinks as possible.

1 MAKE WINNING A HABIT

A lone victory in A internationals this year - and that too against world No. 199 Papua New Guinea - is unacceptable.

Said Stange: "We have to deliver results now. We cannot say everything will be fine on Nov 23 (in the Suzuki Cup Group B opener against Thailand).

"My first job after taking over was to rebuild the team, my second job is to deliver results.

"We need to win these matches and my expectation of the players is high."

2 FINALISE HIS 22-MAN SQUAD

Stange revealed that he is close to finalising his 22-man squad from a shortlist of 30 players.

He said: "We have a very balanced squad of youth and experience.

"I said I want two quality players in every position challenging for a place in the starting 11, and we are close to that."

The 66-year-old German coach looks to be on track.

Hassan Sunny and Izwan Mahbud are both in-form goalkeepers who have won the Suzuki Cup.

Baihakki Khaizan and Safuwan Baharudin remain one of the best centre-back pairings in this region, and there is healthy competition between Shahdan Sulaiman and Zulfahmi Arifin to see who partners Hariss Harun in central midfield.

Even in attack, Stange feels confident enough about his options and will give only cameo appearances to skipper Shahril Ishak and chief striker Khairul Amri, who have just returned from injury.

The one weak department at this point is in the fullback positions, with left back Shaiful Esah the only experienced option as Shakir Hamzah, Madhu Mohana and Faritz Hameed are sidelined by injuries.

Afiq Yunos, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Ismadi Mukhtar, Amirul Adli and Al-Qaasimy Rahman all lack international experience.

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