Fandi and Sundram to jointly assist Stange in 2 friendlies and 2 qualifiers
SINGAPORE football fans are in for a treat as former star strikers Fandi Ahmad and V. Sundramoorthy will join forces for the first time in the national team’s coaching staff, conjuring up images from the 1980s and 1990s when the partnership yielded moments of brilliance and goals, many of them spectacular and acrobatic.
However, the Lions’ choice of friendly opponents – Bangladesh and Brunei – is once again underwhelming.
The Football Association of Singapore announced yesterday that Fandi and Sundram will assist Lions coach Bernd Stange for the friendlies and June’s World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers.
The prospect of seeing the current and former LionsXII coaches teaming up for the first time in the Singapore dug-out is an exciting one.
Last week, Fandi led the side to a 3-1 win over Kelantan in the Malaysian FA Cup final while Sundram, who now coaches S-League club Tampines Rovers, masterminded the 2013 Malaysia Super League triumph.
“I am very happy to rejoin the coaching staff. I know a lot of the guys and I can’t wait to meet them,” Fandi said.
From 2004-2006, the former Singapore captain was the assistant national coach, helping the team to the 2004 Asean Football Federation Cup title.
In 2013, Sundram had one match in charge as caretaker coach of the Lions, a 4-0 defeat by Jordan in the Asian Cup qualifiers.
The Lions, ranked 162nd in the world, will play Bangladesh (169th) at the Banghabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka on Saturday. On June 6, they will host Brunei (182nd) at a venue to be announced later.
However, playing against lower-ranked teams is of dubious value to Singapore. In March, the Lions drew 2-2 against Guam (176th). Last year, friendlies were played against Hong Kong (169th), Laos (178th), Macau (183rd) and Papua New Guinea (202nd).
But Stange explained: “The two dates that we are playing our international friendlies on are non-Fifa dates. As such, it is very difficult to find international opponents to play against as most of their players will not be released by their clubs.
“Brunei and Bangladesh are both able to field their full teams and available to play on the two dates. The games are part of our preparations for the World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers and we will use them to test out players, tactics and formations.”
Meanwhile, Stange has bucked his trend of picking his squad mainly from the LionsXII. For the 21-man squad against Bangladesh, he selected six players who ply their trade in the S-League, among whom Balestier Khalsa goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam and Home United midfielder Yasir Hanapi are uncapped.
Zaiful said: “I feel so happy because I have been waiting for this opportunity to be part of the national team and finally I got it.”
The 29-year-old shot-stopper is also delighted that he will be working with his former national Under-17 coach Sundram, who is known for his meticulous tactical work in training, again.
Zaiful said: “When I was in the youth team, Sundram was my coach so I am very excited to work with him again.”
The first two rounds of qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup have been merged. The Lions have been drawn in Group E alongside Cambodia, Afghanistan, Syria and Japan, and their first match will be away on June 11 against Cambodia in Phnom Penh before another away game in Japan on June 16.
The eight group winners and the four best group runners-up will advance to the third round of World Cup qualification.