Footballing Weekly: New Lions head coach Tsutomu Ogura wants players with 'fighting spirit' playing for one another

Japanese coach wants "risk-takers" in his team, with others willing to cover for them and ensure opponents do not take advatange

Singapore national football head coach Tsutomu Ogura. (PHOTO: FAS/Facebook)
Singapore national football head coach Tsutomu Ogura. (PHOTO: FAS/Facebook)

SINGAPORE — Singapore hired its latest national football head coach Tsutomu Ogura in early February, and the 57-year-old Japanese will take on his first competitive matches barely two months after his appointment - against China in two 2026 World Cup qualifiers on 21 and 26 March.

It is a relatively short time for the ex-Tokyo Verdy assistant manager to get the Lions onboard with his tactics and put up a respectable showing, after the national team's fortunes floundered under the previous head coach Takayuki Yoshigaya.

Nonetheless, Ogura still managed to outline his basic football philosophy in managing the national team during the latest episode of Yahoo Southeast Asia's "Footballing Weekly" podcast show on Thursday (29 February). And his most important pre-requisite for players being selected into his national squad: "I would like to see players with fighting spirit, that is most important to me. Playing style and tactics are secondary."

Believe in teamwork, be willing to cover for teammates

Another of Ogura's requirement for national players is that they must play for one another. He believes that it is vital to for each of the Lions to believe in teamwork and have the willingness to cover for their teammates' risk-taking.

"Let's say I have a very talented player in the national squad. He's the 'pianist' of the team, ready to express his skills and help us score goals," he said during the "Footballing Weekly" podcast show.

"But a pianist alone is not enough. We need others to be 'piano carriers' to bring the piano for him to perform. It's the same on the pitch - the other teammates need to understand they have to do the hard work in order for the star player to shine.

"That's what I hope to find in my team. If there are players willing to take risks to try and get a goal, there must be others willing to cover their positions and make sure the opponents cannot take advantage. That's the big challenge for me to improve the national team's results."

The Lions will face China at the National Stadium on 21 March, before heading to Tianjin for the away tie on 26 March. They had lost their opening two World Cup qualifying matches, 0-5 to South Korea and 1-3 to Thailand.

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