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 By Kenneth Tan

Singapore 'to do damage' in Asian Cup qualifier vs. Turkmenistan - Sundram

Singapore haven't won a game in almost a year, but coach V. Sundramoorthy believes his side can defeat Turkmenistan away in Ashgabat in Tuesday's night crucial Asian Cup qualifier.

Bottom of Group E with just two points from three games, the Lions desperately need a result to keep their qualification hopes alive. Bahrain (seven points) and Turkmenistan (four points) occupy the two qualifying spots.

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The last time Singapore tasted victory was Nov. 2016, and they've won only two of 18 official matches since Sundram took charge around 18 months ago.

But his optimism stems from an encouraging display in the 3-1 friendly defeat against Qatar in Doha last Thursday.

The four-time ASEAN champions could have grabbed a draw if not for a couple of defensive lapses and Fazrul Nawaz's disallowed goal.

"We held a quality opponent like Qatar for 39 minutes, and even when they scored, it was due to our lack of concentration, not because they created those chances," Sundramoorthy told The New Paper.

"Qatar have more quality than Turkmenistan and I already have an idea of how to approach the next match. Against Qatar, we had to stay really compact but, in the Turkmenistan game, there will more possibilities for us to break and do damage."

The former national forward, who recently turned 52, is also buoyed by the performances of Faritz Hameed and Hafiz Sujad.

The duo deputised well in the wing-back positions in Sundram's 3-4-3 formation for the unavailable duo of Nazrul Nazari (family commitment) and Shakir Hamzah (hip injury).

"They ran their socks off and got themselves in good defensive positions but, against Turkmenistan, we will need them to push forward more," he said.

"I know that many people are not giving us a chance in this game, but I believe we can upset the odds."

To ensure the Lions go into the game in the best possible shape, Sundram has made recovery a priority after their arrival in Ashgabat after almost 24 hours of travelling from Doha, including an eight-hour transit in Istanbul, Turkey.

"Recovery is very important. We can talk about fitness and tactics but, at this point, freshness is key," he siad. "And to that end, we headed to Ashgabat earlier -- three days before the game -- not like what Turkmenistan did when they came to Singapore."

Last month, Turkmenistan arrived in Singapore just 48 hours before the match, and had only one training session on Jalan Besar's artificial surface before the two sides played out to a 1-1 draw.

"The boys have had a long journey, so the roles of our sports trainers, physios and fitness coach are important," Sundram added.

"The Turkmenistan game will be a totally different one from the one at Jalan Besar. This time, they will have their home fans, who will be a hostile crowd for us, and they are a well-rested team looking to boost their own qualification chances."

Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT

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