On one side of the pitch at the Jalan Besar Stadium, the likes of Daniel Bennett, Hariss Harun, Lionel Lewis and Aleksandar Duric - along with most of the Lions' old guard - were engaged in various attack-versus-defence drills. But Singapore football coach Radojko Avramovic (picture) was standing at the penalty spot at the other end, away from the players who are likely to form his first XI when the Lions lineup in the second round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers (July 23 and 28) against the winners of the Malaysia-Taiwan match.
Barking instructions and correcting players' positional mistakes, the Serb cast a keen eye on the new members of his 33-strong squad. While the gulf in standards was apparent in last Friday's "friendly" match that saw the old guard beat the new recruits 6-0, the Serb was pleased with what he had seen so far from the fresh-faced hopefuls. Speaking to MediaCorp ahead of yesterday's 90-minute training session, he said: "I'm really happy with them … it's very encouraging to see that all, not just the new players, are trying their best in training and that's really important."
Singapore face the Maldives in a friendly tomorrow at Jalan Besar, in the first of a couple of matches the younger players will have to lay their claim for a spot in the final 22-man squad for the World Cup qualifiers.
A friendly against Laos is lined up for June 18, while the Kuwait Olympic team will face a Singapore selection - made up of under-23 players and some older ones - on June 13, to give Avramovic another look at players outside his original list. "This game against Maldives, and the other friendlies, is important to help me decide who will make the final list for the World Cup qualifiers. I generally know what my first XI will look like but the big question is, are these players ready? I'm not sure about the fitness levels, because in the second half of the match (on Friday) the tempo of the game dropped in the last 20 minutes," said the 61-year-old.
Yesterday's workout indicated that Avramovic may already have decided on his defensive line up. Hariss looks set to partner Bennett in the heart of defence, while Juma'at Jantan and Ismail Yunos will slot in as fullbacks, with Lewis in goal. Avramovic's biggest headache now is finding at least two more games for his charges before lining up against the winners of the Malaysia-Taiwan tie.
"We're still trying to find opponents for June 29 and July 3 but some countries have their own qualifiers to play on those FIFA dates for international games, and others already have prior commitments," he said. The Maldives team has been in good form of late and are garnered some good results in the AFC Challenge Cup 2012. Maldives Coach Diego Andres Cruciani played down his team’s unbeaten run and asserted that his team is looking forward to the match tomorrow evening. Cruciani said: “We have only had two days to prepare and I do not know much about the Singapore team so we will go out there and do our best.”
Several Courts Young Lions' players were absent from training yesterday, having been given the day off in lieu of the national under-23 team's impending training tour of Sydney (June 8-15), while Tanjong Pagar defender Delwinder Singh is back with his club to prepare for today's fixture against Albirex Niigata. But the most significant absentee was Persiba Balikpapan's Khairul Amri, who is yet to be released by the Indonesian club despite FIFA's ruling that players must be freed at least 48 hours before officially-sanctioned international fixtures... Read More