Singapore coach V. Sundramoorthy was in no mood to speak to reporters ahead of the Lion’s blockbusting clash with Argentina at the National Stadium on Tuesday.
Sundram spent less than a minute answering questions in a testy exchange with reporters during a press conference scheduled to last 15 minutes before making his excuses and leaving, saying he had to go train with the players.
The friendly tie, to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), couldn’t have come at a worse time for the beleaguered coach following Saturday’s hugely disappointing 2-1 home defeat to Taiwan in a 2019 Asian Cup qualifier.
The defeat left Singapore bottom of their group with one point from two games and means they will probably struggle to qualify.
But more important than the qualifying campaign was the manner of the defeat, as Singapore were outplayed by a nation with absolutely no history of football.
The Lions, rather than going down to a valiant, unfortunate defeat, surrendered meekly, their only strategy seemingly being to pump hopeful long balls forward with the aim of picking up the scraps.
It was a tactic that bore no fruit whatsoever and left fans feeling extremely frustrated and accusing Singapore of not taking their opponents seriously.
Singapore were poor against Taiwan.
Part of Sundram’s problem is that he is the type of coach that will defend his players to the death. Unlike certain coaches who will tell it like it is and scold players after defeats, Sundram will always find a reason or an explanation for when things don’t go the Lions’ way.
This can rub disappointed fans up the wrong way as it often sounds like he is making excuses and is afraid to criticise his team.
The more immediate problem for Sundram, however, following the Taiwan defeat is Tuesday’s eye catching clash, as most observers will be watching the manner of the performance against Argentina with added interest.
A loss is expected, but if his side perform well, they will be accused of taking an unimportant glamour tie against one of the world’s best teams more seriously than a qualifying match to what is in effect the second most important tournament they can play in after the World Cup.
The calls for Sundram’s head could intensify.
Still, the Lions will not want to be humiliated in a showpiece game to celebrate the country’s football history, so the players will be determined to at least put in a good showing.
Should they do so then Sundram could well be in for another uncomfortable grilling in front of the nation’s press corp.