Singapore has seldom made even a regional dent in FIFA World Cup™ qualifying in South East Asia, but the tournament ahead of the first Asian finals was particularly disappointing. Four defeats and two draws in an admittedly difficult group, with Bahrain, Kuwait and Kyrgyzstan, sent Singapore packing.
With development of the semi-professional 12-team S-league, football has been attracting more and more interest on the island nation of four-and-a-half million people, and the national team should have more choice of promising young players from the league. As a result, more is expected than ever before from the young Lions.
The team is has been coached by Radojko "Raddy" Avramovic since he took over in 2003. Under the former Yugoslav star and Kuwaiti national team coach, the Lions have been making sustained progress which saw them emerge as one of the region's leading powers in South Eeast Asia.
However, the Asian Zone's qualifying campaign for Germany 2006 proved too tough for the ASEAN islanders, who lost five of their six group matches. They salvaged some pride in the penultimate match, where they overcame India 2-0.
The failure, though, did little to hamper Singapore's determination to improve their game. They underlined the progress in the qualifying competition for 2007 AFC Asian Cup, where they stunned Iraq 2-0 before holding China to a goalless draw. Their attempt to book a place at the continental showpiece event ended in a heart-stopping way, however, they earned respect and gained self-confidence through their excellent performances.
With the experience gained from the games, it was no
surprise that they successfully defended their title at the 2007
ASEAN Football Championship (previously known as the Tiger Cup),
overcoming regional power Thailand 3-2 on aggregate in the
Their progress was further highlighted when the Lions eliminated Palestine and then Tajikistan in the early stages of qualifying for South Africa 2010 to advance to Asia's last twenty.
Despite their resilient performances throughout the campaign, however, the gulf in class between the Lions and Asia's big boys was clearly illustrated as Avramovic's team lost all four meetings with Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan to crash out. They did, however, retain some respectability with two victories over group tailenders Lebanon.