REPORTING FROM KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
Singapore U-22 football team coach Richard Tardy feels that the Young Lions will have exceeded expectations should they manage to clinch a semi-final spot at the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
The Young Lions are currently in the same group as Myanmar, Malaysia, Laos and Brunei for the upcoming competition. They fell 0-2 to Myanmar in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship qualifiers last month, while Malaysia were one of the three South-east Asian teams to qualify for the tournament, surprising many.
Singapore were also trounced 0-7 by Australia before redeeming themselves with a 4-1 win over Brunei in the final match of the qualifiers.
Tardy believes that to have a chance of qualifying for the SEA Games semi-finals, the team will have to avoid defeat against Myanmar on Monday ( 14 August) and Malaysia on Wednesday, although he seemed to suggest that it might take special efforts from his players to do so.
“Honestly, when you see the draw, Singapore is No. 3 (behind Myanmar and Malaysia) so we will try to create some problems for the top two teams,” Tardy said at the Inspens Bangi Stadium on Saturday where the Singapore team were holding a training session after arriving in Kuala Lumpur.
“Today, we are outsiders. This is the target I set for my players – we need two points from the opening two games at least, if we want to have a chance (of progressing from the group stages).
“They have to do something they have never done before, and I hope they can find in their mind what they have never done before to be strong on Monday.”
The Frenchman’s hopes may be affected by key player Adam Swandi’s injury, which will see him unlikely to take to the pitch on Monday. The 21-year-old has an injured right ankle and did not take part in Saturday’s training session.
Tardy said “it will be very difficult” for Adam to play any part in the match against Myanmar.
Focus on development
Tardy insisted, however, that achieving results at the SEA Games is not that important as the focus is on the development of the young players in the team.
With almost half the team available to play in the next SEA Games – something the coach was happy to emphasise – the focus is on giving the players “experience and exposure”.
“My job as a coach is to help the players to progress,” he said.
“We have four or five players very near the high level, and this competition can help us to show their level… we must be prudent, we must be quiet. This team, I say again, sometimes can play at a high level, but sometimes at a very low level.
“We have to be careful about expectations, especially in terms of results.”