By Khalis Rifhan
With 21 goals to his name and having represented three clubs in the AFC Cup – Warriors FC, Geylang International and now Tampines Rovers – former Singapore international Aleksandar Duric is keen to better his personal-best finish this year in the competition.
Nine years ago, Duric made a semi-final appearance with then-Geylang United, but they lost out a spot in the final after going out 2-1 on aggregate against Syrian club Al-Wahda SC Damascus.
“I will never forget that year - we were unlucky not to progress to the final," he recalled.
Still fresh on Duric’s mind is the Stags' forgettable outing last year, as they crashed out at the group stages after finishing bottom with only one win – a 2-0 victory against Terengganu FA - and two draws.
This time round however, the 43 year-old believes that the defending S.League champions will be able to perform better.
“We really have a good team now and it was a disappointing AFC Cup for us last year," Duric said.
"We have a much better team this year and our target is definitely to progress beyond the group stage.
“We have to aim as far as we can. It will definitely get tougher after the group stage, when we face the teams from Middle East. There is no easy game in the AFC Cup so we have to be ready and take any chances to score goals, and give our best to win every game.
“I think we have a good chance to go far with the team we have, and we also have a bigger squad this year. It is important to have a big squad to play in the S.League and AFC Cup and we need all players to be available for all the competitions.”
While the venue for the cup tie is not exactly their home turf, Duric insists that playing at the Jalan Besar Stadium will still be to their advantage.
“Looking at the group, it is not easy but we have to start with a win," he pointed out.
"We have to take advantage of playing at home. I guess Jalan Besar is not really our home but we have played many more game on the artificial pitch as compared to our opponents."
The veteran striker also urged all football fans to get behind them and Warriors FC, as they aim to fly the Singapore flag high in the competition.
“We need the supporters to be at the game; this is an international game and I hope to see more Singaporeans coming down for our matches," Duric rallied.
"Let’s not forget that Tampines Rovers is not only playing as a club, but also representing Singapore in the competition.”
Tampines will kickstart their AFC Cup campaign against Vietnamese club Sai Gon Xuan Thanh at the Jalan Besar Stadium on March 6, with kick-off at 7.30p.m.