After three years as national coach of Singapore, Bernd Stange is fighting for an assessment of his work. Success or failure, that’s the question. Stange retired from his job last month. The City State qualified directly via the play-offs for the third round of the qualification for the 2019 Asian Championship under his direction. Should the country also surmount the last obstacle, they would participate at the Continental Championship for the first time since 1984. Then Singapore were seeded as the hosts. As expected, the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia will be played without the country.
“Results and our place in the world rankings are important. But we should not forget that our team consists of players from this city. None of them has gained experience abroad”, said Stange. He left no doubt that he had improved Singapore football within the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
But some assess the progress with certain skepticism and, considering the 68-year-old’s record, reason that Stange did not fulfil his promise of further development. Critics reproach him with the preliminary round elimination at the 2014 ASEAN Championship of South Asian countries, when title holders Singapore failed to gain a single point. Stange then had the courage to nominate 14 of the 22 players who were younger than 24.
Another accusation is that Stange failed to develop a more modern playing system with his team. His record of 14 wins in 34 matches is better than that of his predecessor, however. But here, too, the critics see weaknesses. Singapore did not achieve wins against major Asian teams. The encounter with World Cup participants Japan will be remembered as the highlight of the Stange era, when Singapore recorded a surprise goalless draw at Saitama last summer.
The football coach does not contemplate a withdrawal from football. He does not yet know where he will go before retiring to Perth in Australia. During his career he coached, among others, the national teams of former East Germany, Oman, Iraq and Belarus.Singapore lost the last international match under his direction 2-1 in Afghanistan.
Their new coach Petar Segrt, once youth coach with VfL Bochum and MSV Duisburg, celebrated his second win in the third competitive match. In the autumn Segrt replaced German-Bosnian Slaven Skeledzic, who had previously coached the junior teams of Eintracht Frankfurt and Hannover 96. Skeledzic had taken office in Afghanistan with great aims in February 2015. But the Association did not have patience with him and sacked him just nine months later.
Coach Uli Stielike is quite safe at the helm of South Korea. Reaching the final of the 2015 Asian Championship is considered a success, even though they suffered a defeat in the final against hosts Australia, who are placed below the South Koreans in the FIFA ranking. The FIFA ranking enjoys much more informative value in Asia than in Europe. However, a final can always be lost against the hosts of a tournament. It remained Stielike’s only defeat in 2015.
The World Cup qualification is running smoothly for South Korea. Seven wins in seven matches with a goal tally of 24-0 left no space for doubt in the second round that the Red Devils have firmly planned to be in Russia. Stielike demands not just wins against weaker-placed teams, however. He wants his team to dominate their opponents. That’s what happened last month when South Korea attacked the difficult Lebanese for 90 minutes but scored the winner only in added time. “That was deserved because we worked for that goal during the entire match”, said the 1980 European champion.
He indulged in the luxury of not nominating Heung-Min Son, the former Leverkusen player who currently plays with Tottenham Hotspur. This gesture should make Tottenham willing to release Son for the country’s Olympic team in the summer. Stielike is willing to send his star into the hunt for medals in Rio, although the hot phase of the World Cup qualification will begin shortly afterwards.