It is official: After almost a week of speculation, the Bernd Stange era will come to an end next month.
Yesterday, the Singapore coach confirmed that the World Cup football qualifier against Afghanistan next Tuesday will be his last assignment at the helm.
The Lions play Myanmar in a friendly at the Jalan Besar Stadium today, before heading to Teheran for the Afghan clash.
At a pre-match press conference yesterday, the German said he was proud with how his players had dealt with the uncertainty ahead of his penultimate game in charge.
He said: “As you know now I asked the FAS (Football Association of Singapore) in January not to plan with me after the Afghanistan match.
“The players reacted very professionally. It shows… that they are absolutely focused (on) their performance and it makes me a little bit proud even if I’m on the way (out).”
Even as he confirmed his departure, the 68-year-old German defended his team’s performances in the World Cup qualifiers, which yielded 10 points from a possible 21.
Of the 10, six came from two wins over minnows Cambodia, three in a home win over Afghanistan and one in a sensational draw in Japan.
Singapore are poised to finish third in Group E, which will secure a berth in the 2019 Asian Cup third qualifying round.
“I (won’t) allow anybody to be too negative about our performances,” said Stange. “Results are crucial, world ranking is crucial, but don’t forget we have a local team. We don’t have any foreign-grown players.
“We want to have two good performances (next). Our goal is absolutely clear – we will try to win both matches.”
He did, however, concede that performances at the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup, which saw hosts Singapore crashing out in the group stage, were far from satisfactory.
That said, Stange also pointed out that Singapore’s losses against eventual finalists Thailand and Malaysia in the group stage came as a result of two late penalties. The former Belarus coach, whose record in Singapore stands at 14 wins, four draws and 15 losses, said: “We are not happy with the last Suzuki Cup performance… but we were not outclassed.”
Singapore midfielder Hariss Harun echoed his coach’s comments and said the team want to kick-start the year with a good result against Myanmar.
The Johor Darul Takzim midfielder said: “It’s always a good feeling to come back, it’s exciting for us, to play together and achieve results… it’s the aim for us, and what better way than to do it in front of our own fans.”
This article was first published on March 24, 2016.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.