His team are still a “work in progress”, but national Under-23 football coach Aide Iskandar has faith his charges will deliver at next month’s South-east Asia (SEA) Games on home soil.
Drawn in Group A, the Singapore football team kick off their campaign against the Philippines on June 1 at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
The other teams in Group A are Cambodia, Myanmar and Indonesia, and Group B features favourites Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos, Timor Leste and Brunei.
Before leaving with the squad for Japan yesterday for a week-long training camp, the former national skipper said: “The team are still a work in progress and the boys are working hard.
“They know the importance of this SEA Games on home soil and I’ve always had the belief they will rise to the occasion.”
Aide and his 25-strong squad will be based in Gotemba in Shizuoka Prefecture, and will play two friendlies, against Japanese fourth-tier side Azul-Claro Numazu on Thursday and Shizuoka Sangyo University on Saturday.
This is the second phase of centralised training after the May 1-8 stint at the Singapore Sports School.
Two final tune-up games are being lined up for the team after they return from Japan, and Aide will finalise his squad of 20 two days before the Philippines game.
“I have a first 11 in mind but only the assistant coaches and I know the names,” he said.
“I’ve told the players that everyone starts on equal ground and everybody is fighting hard for a place in the final squad.”
In a nice touch, the players marked Mothers’ Day yesterday by presenting their mums with a rose stalk each, when the group gathered at Changi Airport’s Terminal 2.
The 39-year-old coach hopes the Japan trip will mark the point his players switch on into tournament mode.
Asked about the objectives, he said: “Firstly, we want to see cohesiveness, teamwork and bonding between the players.
“We’ve already taken a big step with the (centralised training) at the Singapore Sports School.
“The only difference this time is there will be no distractions for the boys, who will be away from the family and media.
“Secondly, we want to increase the intensity of training.
“Since the weather there is cooler, we have the opportunity to push them a bit harder.”
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