By Kenneth Tan
and Teng Kiat
“I have a job to do, and I will do my best.”
Those were the words of Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic at the pre-match conference on Monday afternoon, ahead of their friendly against India on Tuesday night.
The Serb will leave his post after the conclusion of the AFF Suzuki Cup tournament next month, but pledged to lead the Lions well in the bi-annual fight for footballing supremacy in South-east Asia.
Tuesday’s game is part of their preparations for the campaign, and Raddy feels that India will be a good test for the Lions.
“India is improving. In the last Asian Cup, [they] played good games, [and] they have about 6 players from that squad here,” explained Raddy, who singled out striker Sunil Chhetri as a potential threat.
“One of those whom we have to stop is this guy [Sunil] here! We will try; they are now trying to implement that success. Their league is now more professional [and] we can expect them to be a top Asia side in future.”
The Singapore coach believes that this match is a good chance for the younger players, saying: “A lot of them are slowly coming into [the] national team, [and it is a] good opportunity to establish themselves.”
“It is a case of creating chances [to win]. The players from LionsXII and other S-League sides have been playing together for the past two to three years; if communication is a problem, then something is wrong!”
Meanwhile, India coach Wim Koevermans was pleased to be able to play against “strong opposition”.
“[It is] important to use every FIFA date to play a friendly, to improve ourselves,” explained the Dutchman.
“We have seen video footage of [the] Singapore team, [and] they always give everything.”
The India squad has arrived in Singapore fresh off the back of their recent Nehru Cup win in November, which both Koevermans and captain Sunil were delighted with.
“The Cup win was great! When I first came in on July 1, [we] only had five weeks together [so I am] really pleased with the performance of the team. We showed good team spirit and played good football, [and we] have to do that in future as well,” said the coach.
“[I am] very excited to come here, especially after the Cup win,” added Sunil, who scored against Cameroon in the final, which they won on penalties.
The striker, who moved to Portugal’s Sporting CP two months ago, said a lot has changed in Indian football during his eight years in the national side and believes the Cup win was a move in the “right direction”.
“In coming years, I hope people can go abroad, not because we don’t have a good league, but to learn more. That’s a way to improve our football here,” elaborated Sunil.
“It’s hard when football is more shadowed by the more prominent sports [like cricket], but we’re making [the] right steps. The media is helping [and] fans are co-operating.
“[There is a] lot of hard work to be done, [but] the FA is taking [the] right steps [and we have a] great technical gaffer in Wim.”
The Lions have been hit by the withdrawals of captain Shahril Ishak, striker Agu Casmir and midfielder Safirul Sulaiman due to knee injuries, while Qiu Li is out with a groin injury. Midielders Hafiz Sujad [Courts Young Lions], Raihan Rahman, Firdaus Kasman and full-back Juma’at Jantan [all LionsXII] have been called up as replacements.
Playmaker Shahdan's Sulaiman’s range of passing could prove key, while evergreen striker Aleksandar Duric is lethal upfront, although morale might be suspect due to the LionsXII’s recent Malaysia Cup semi-final defeat.
As for India, striker Manandeep Singh is injured and was hence left out of the squad. Left-back Syed Rahim Nabi and forward Sunil are key players, while goalkeeper Subrata Paul is always a rock at the back.
According to Goal.com India chief editor Rahul Bali, Koevermans is known to prefer a fluid attacking system based on ball possession and outplaying the opposition, while it will also be a new experience to play a friendly with only two days’ training.
India [4-2-3-1]: Subrata Paul; Nirmal Chettri, Gouramangi Moirangthem , Raju Gaikwad, Syed Rahim Nabil; Lenny Rodrigues, Mehtab Hussain; Anthony Pereira, Francis Fernandes, Clifford Miranda; Sunil Chhetri.
Recent form: WLDWW
Singapore [4-4-2]: Izwan Mahbud; Irwan Shah, Daniel Bennett, Baihakki Khaizan, Shaiful Esah; Shahdan Sulaiman, Mustafic Fahrudin, Hariss Harun, Khairul Amri; Fazrul Nawaz, Aleksandar Duric.
Recent form: DL