Stange: We are not ready to take on strong opponents yet

The Singapore coach explained why Laos was chosen for their warm-up game before taking on Syria next week, but hopes they can spar with better sides regularly in future
With Singapore due to play Syria in a crucial 2015 AFC Asian Cup qualifier next Tuesday, a friendly against Laos was lined up yesterday night as a warm-up match.

The Lions eked out a 1-0 victory after missing a hat-ful of chances, although they did not put in a very convincing performance.

But many have questioned the choice of opponent for the game, which was a largely Under-23 side that has been beaten by the Lions 5-2 back in June this year. They wonder whether a stronger team could have been selected as sparring partners instead.

Singapore coach Bernd Stange had earlier addressed the issue at the pre-game press conference on Monday afternoon without pulling any punches.

"It doesn’t make sense, if [before] we play Syria, to play four days or three days before against Japan or another very strong team; I think at this stage, at the end of the season, it’s good, better to choose a team that is on our level to have a warm-up game," he explained.

"That sounds a little like we are underestimating Laos, but it’s not correct and you shouldn’t do that, it’s very dangerous. It (Laos) will be a good team, it will be tough for us and it will be a good warm-up game."

The German had also mentioned that some of the Singapore players were recovering from injuries at the end of a long season, with Qiu Li, Izwan Mahbud, Safuwan Baharudin (although he played 45 minutes last night) and Fazrul Nawaz some of those who would not be available.

Under such circumstances, he said, playing against a team like Laos is "good" as it allows him to test other players in his squad.

"If we have a big opponent like China or Japan or Korea, it won’t be a good build-up for Syria - that’s my experience after years and years [of coaching]," Stange continued.

"To have two opponents in a very short time is very difficult to handle for teams on our level. Top-class teams like Bayern Munich or Barcelona can play on Wednesday, Saturday [and then] Wednesday again against strong opponents, but we are not ready at this stage to do such things."

Stange also cited the longer recovery time needed after playing on artificial turf as another reason, but he aims to get the team to the required level to play regularly against strong opponents in future.

"We are looking for great opponents in the future, but we have to be ready for that," he asserted.

"It doesn’t make sense to get hammered from Japan or Korea or Germany or Italy; we are not ready, definitely, to play on this stage.

"I think we can be ready in six months, in one year, if we adapt a little more and if we introduce more of these international ideas of football, and then I am looking for these strong opponents [to play], but not now."