By Neil McCormack
Ahead of the qualifying matches for the 2018 AFC Under-23 Championship and the upcoming SEA Games, we talk to Richard Tardy about his team’s chances.
What lessons did you learn from your two friendly matches in Qatar?
It was good to play these games against Qatar, who are a strong team, just like the teams we played in Dubai in June. We gained more experience and also learned that we need to be more careful in defense as, at a high level, making a mistake can be fatal for the team.
There is no place for mistakes in international games and we have to focus for the entire duration of the game.
Singapore appears to be in a relatively easy group for AFC U23 qualifying. Can you qualify from Group F?
We are not in an easy group. We will be playing Myanmar who have 10 players in their squad playing in the senior National Team. Most of the squad also played in the 2015 Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand.
Australia is one of the best teams in Asia. They have participated in and qualified for the FIFA Under-20 and Under-17 World Cups many times. They also won the ASEAN Football Federation Under-19 Championship last year. We have a tough group but in football, anything can happen. We know we need to win all three games if we want a chance in the final tournament. If we manage to qualify, it will be the first time that Singapore has qualified for the final tournament.
We have a tough group but in football, anything can happen. We know we need to win all three games if we want a chance in the final tournament. If we manage to qualify, it will be the first time that Singapore has qualified for the final tournament.
I am also hopeful that we will have the best team with us. I am thankful to the clubs for releasing the players for the qualifiers.
In your first match in charge of the Garena Young Lions, you said: “I was not too pleased with some of the attitude of our players.” What specifically were you unhappy about?
The Young Lions is a developmental team and it is not easy playing against the first team of all the S.League clubs. They had a difficult start but have been achieving better results in the recent S.League games.
They have proven that despite their age, the team is able to compete in the game and make things difficult for opponents.
What is your response to people who say the Garena Young Lions should be disbanded?
We took a risk last year when we fielded a team of mostly Under-23 players, along with some older players. It was a risk we had to take to give experience to our younger players. They can only progress if they play at a high level.
Some of the players in the Young Lions have played 14-20 games after five months of S.League, and this has aided in their development as a player. It is not easy for them to be playing against older and professional players. They also have to juggle school and other commitments. They make mistakes but they also learn from their mistakes. It is a good opportunity for them to play in the S.League.
The SEA Games is in August. What are your expectations?
The squad for the 2017 SEA Games will be made up of very young players, so while their performance is important, we also have to set realistic expectations. I hope to reach the semi-finals, but we will see. We are working for long-term results now, as several of the players in this 2017 squad will still be eligible for the 2019 SEA Games.
Will scoring goals be your biggest problem for the AFC U-23 qualifying matches and the SEA Games in August?
It is true that we have to work on scoring goals, but we also faced strong defenders in the international games we have played.
I hope that we will do better in the next friendly match against India so that the strikers and the team will be able to gain more confidence before departing for the AFC Under-23 qualifiers and the SEA Games.