The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has backed under-fire national team coach Raddy Avramovic, following a review of the Lions' performance in the third round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
The team lost all six games against Iraq, Jordan and China, leading to many fans calling for the coach's sacking. To make matters worse, Singapore also slipped to 158th position in the latest FIFA world rankings released last week, its lowest to date.
But in a statement sent out on Monday after the review, FAS president Zainudin Nordin said the coach has, in fact, already achieved one of the goals set for the team.
"We had earlier set two targets for the national team in 2011/2012: To qualify for the third round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Asian Zone Qualifiers, and to reach the final of the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup," he said.
While Zainudin said the Lions had achieved the first target, he acknowledged that "we should have performed better". To do that, he added that the FAS' technical department will work with the coach to rectify the technical and tactical mistakes committed by the team during the qualifying campaign.
In his post-campaign report, Avramovic had listed the factors behind the team's dismal performances. These include defensive lapses and a lack of depth in the squad. He added that improvement needs to be made in the players' level of international match fitness.
The national coach also stressed on the need for the team to play more friendly matches.
Zainudin said that "the FAS management will spare no effort in ensuring that the national team receives the best pre-tournament preparations, wherever possible" before the Suzuki Cup kicks off in Malaysia and Thailand in November. To that end, friendly games against the Malaysians and Hong Kong have already been lined up.
The MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC said the performance of "young emerging footballers, in the S.League and Malaysian Super League" has also made him optimistic that the team will do well at a tournament they last won in 2007.
"We are in the process of rejuvenating our national team and we will continue to develop our emerging youth players, many of whom have gained invaluable experience and exposure in the World Cup qualifying matches. We appreciate and thank all our stakeholders, including the fans and media, for their support during the Lions' World Cup qualifying campaign, and we seek their continued support as the Lions strive to grow from strength to strength," he concluded.
Fans interviewed by Yahoo! Singapore, however, expressed their dissatisfaction with the news. Said management executive Wayne Chan: "It's obvious that the team is not progressing and we are still seeing the same old faces, so I don't understand the FAS' decision."
Another Lions supporter, Mohd Fazli, said he was hoping LionsXII's coach V.Sundramoorthy will be given the chance to be national team coach as well. But he added: "Let's hope the FAS is right and Raddy will win the Suzuki Cup at the end of the year."