Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin has set a target for the national Under-23 team to reach the final of the SEA Games at the end of the year.
Speaking at the FAS's Annual General Meeting (AGM) yesterday evening, Zainudin said that the target to reach the final at Myanmar in December this year is part of a phased-approached by the FAS Strategic Plan to eventually win the gold medal at the 2015 SEA Games, which will be held in Singapore.
“We are now in the final phase of preparations for the December 2013 edition of the SEA Games, where we hope to reach the final,” Zainudin said.
“One of our goals in the FAS Strategic Plan is to prepare our national Under-23 team to target the gold medal at the 2015 SEA Games, which will be held at our Sports Hub.
“We are now working closely with our partners, including SSC (Singapore Sports Council), to ensure that the team receives the required level of support to achieve the gold medal in two years’ time.”
Despite a relatively disappointing showing by the U23 team at the recent Merdeka Cup, where they won only one out of their four games, Zainudin is confident they are getting the best possible preparations individually and as a team.
The bulk of the current team are from the LionsXII, who recently clinched the Malaysian Super League title and are through to the quarter finals of the Malaysia Cup while remaining undefeated at home all season.
“We are less than 10 weeks away from the SEA Games in Myanmar and we will continue to ensure that the team receives the maximum level of support as they strive to do us proud at the biennial event,” Zainudin added.
In his speech, Zainudin also highlighted the key achievements and progress made during the past year, which includes Singapore's success at 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup, the Cubs’ encouraging performance at the 2012 Lion City Cup, the organisation of the first AFC Pro-Diploma course in Southeast Asia, and expansion of the Junior Centre of Excellence and National Football Academy programmes.
As for the senior national team, Zainudin is pleased to note that the players are enjoying a new style of football under Bernd Stange, who has handed international debuts to six players since June.
“Since leading the Lions to a victory over Myanmar in his first match in early June, Stange has handed international debuts to at least six players and this bodes well for the future of Singapore football since we are developing and grooming a national team which is capable to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup," he said.
The German came into the Singapore managerial hot seat with a pretty impressive track record, which includes improving the Belarus national team’s FIFA ranking from 90 to 36 in three years.
However, Stange has come under criticism recently after a trilogy of defeats. The Lions went down to a 2-0 defeat at home against Oman in an 2015 AFC Asian Cup qualifier, before suffering a 6-1 drubbing against China and a narrow 1-0 loss against Hong Kong in two subsequent friendlies.
Still, Zainudin believes that Stange will “play a key role in grooming and developing a strong national team".
“With his wealth of experience and expertise, Stange has what it takes to bring our national team to the next level,” he said.
In a recent interview with Goal Singapore, national midfielder Isa Halim also insisted that Stange has brought progress.
“I’ve learned a lot in the past few months, about the professional style and standard of football he (Stange) believes we should be playing,” Isa said.