A win at home on Tuesday against Syria could take Singapore all the way to the top of Group E of the World Cup Qualifiers, but all the manager Bernd Stange is concerned about is putting his team in the best possible position to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup.
Singapore are currently third in the group on 10 points from six matches, with their Tuesday opponents Syria a place above in second, having picked up two points more despite playing a game less. Japan are the leaders of the group with 13 points from five matches, and even if that is expected to become 16 from six games – considering they are playing Cambodia, the team who haven't picked up a single point in qualifying – Singapore can put pressure on the top with a win at home.
However, Stange is aware of his team's limitations, and believes Singapore's best chance lies in concentrating on qualifying for the Asian Cup for the first time since 1984, when they hosted the continental event.
"I want to make it absolutely clear -- our objective is to reach the Asian Cup," Stange was quoted as saying by Straits Times. "It is definitely not in our system that we put ourselves under enormous pressure to reach the World Cup, or to go to the next round [of the Asian World Cup qualifiers].
"That is possible but our situation doesn't allow us [to do that] at this stage."
To qualify for the Asian Cup, though, Singapore will need to beat Syria at home, which is far from an easy task. Syria beat Singapore in the reverse fixture – which was played in Oman for security reasons – 1-0, and Stange believes a different result is possible.
"I didn't feel a big difference when we played that away game," the German added. "I am not afraid [of playing them]. We are coming closer to the Middle Eastern teams. [But] we have to be realistic, we are not in their level. Their players are physically stronger and more dominating."
Syria coach Fajr Ibrahim, though, believes Singapore are a team that will be difficult to beat, with the manager noting the fact that the last time the two teams played in Singapore, in 2013, the home team ran-out 2-1 winners.
"Now is the best time for Singapore team," Ibrahim said. "I think they have a great coach. Day by day, they will improve. This is the first time I see Singapore team at this level.
"We lost the last time we came here. Now, we are here to win."
Where to Watch Live
Singapore vs Syria is scheduled for an 8 pm local time (5.30 pm IST) start with live no TV coverage in India, the UK or the US.
Viewers in Singapore can watch the 2016 World Cup qualifying match live on Eleven Singapore, with audience in Malaysia also able to do the same by flipping their remotes to the channel.
Audience in Syria and the rest of the Middle East and North Africa can watch the qualifier live on Bein Sports Arabia 8, while the action can also be watched via online live streaming on Bein Sports Connect.