The Singapore coach pinpointed striking woes and depth issues but is confident the side can adapt and play to his philosophyIt has not been a pretty picture for Singapore on the international stage recently.
The senior side were trounced 6-1 by China before going on to lose 1-0 to Hong Kong, having lost 2-0 at home to Oman in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers prior to those games. The Under-23s suffered three defeats in a row at the Merdeka Cup before finally managing a win in their last match, while the U19s crashed out at the group stages of the AFF U19 Championship in Indonesia.
If it wasn't clear before that there is a lot of work to do before they can even dream about dining at the same table with Asia's elite, then those results have hammered home the point. It is one that Lions coach Bernd Stange is fully aware of.
The German singled out a lack of quality and depth as a key problem, especially evident with the U23s, who were missing national team regulars like Izwan Mahbud, Hariss Harun and Safuwan Baharudin as they were away with the Lions.
"You have all these substitute players and you can see from the Merdeka Cup, the second draw (string) of our football, isn’t so strong as I thought," Stange told Goal Singapore during a recent kids' coaching camp.
"It’s a lot to do for all of us and we cannot have all these excuses that there are five players missing, the key players are with the national team. The national team is the national team and that is the second draw, and we have to prepare them for international football."
Singapore's woes are strikingly acute upfront and Stange explained that the difficulty in finding good forwards hampered his philosophy of playing possession football.
"If you play possession, if you keep the ball, finally (in the end) you need a striker who can make it - the final touch, a goal," he pointed out.
"And please, I ask you a question. Do you see these strikers in our S.League? All these main positions of goalkeepers, central defenders, playmakers and strikers are in the end all foreigners.
"And it’s very difficult to find top-class strikers. We are already looking in the Prime League. We are looking for young talents [who are] 17, 18 years old [but] we cannot find strikers.
"The best two strikers in the S.League are Indra [Sahdan] and Qiu Li, but they are - sorry, not overage - elderly players and we need 19, 20-year-old strikers and at this stage, we cannot find them."
But the 65-year-old former Belarus and Iraq coach is not daunted and instead believes Singapore simply has to adapt to the situation.
"It means we have to work [around it] and maybe we have to change our system," Stange observed.
"As you know, Barcelona play a lot of games without a striker. But we will find one and we will find the system [to suit us]."
The Lions' next task is a third Asian Cup qualifier against Syria at home, having already lost the first two. Stange is adamant they can win.
"We will have a team against Syria and we are going to win that match," he declared.
"That’s our goal. My demands are very high, to all of them (the team) and I’m sure we will improve. I’m full of optimism; even if we have come back with two not very nice results."