The Football Association of Singapore has announced the appointment of Japanese manager Tatsuma Yoshida as the new head coach of the Singapore men's national team, on what is believed to be a two-year contract.
With just over a week until he makes his competitive bow with the side as they prepare to face the Solomon Islands at the National Stadium on June 8, followed by a clash with Myanmar at the same venue three days later, Yoshida will have the opportunity to meet his new team during the centralised training sessions currently ongoing. Taking over from interim manager Nazri Nasir, who guided the Lions to 2nd place at the AIRMARINE Cup in March, the Japanese will look to get off to an encouraging start against two sides they should expect to beat.
Yoshida was born in Chiba Prefecture in 1974 and became a professional footballer in Japan during the 1990s. In 2002, he signed for the now defunct S.League club Jurong FC, before retiring at the end of the 2002 season.
Despite having never managed an international side before, Yoshida does come with some experience at a high level, previously managing J1 League sides Albirex Niigata, Kashiwa Reysol and Venforet Kofu. However, his record at these clubs has come under much scrutiny from Singapore football fans since The Straits Times broke the news of his imminent appointment weeks ago, and it's easy to see why.
In his first season as a manager, he finished 10th in J1 League with Kashiwa, before being appointed as manager of Albirex just a year later. The following season was disastrous, as Yoshida's Albirex just about avoided relegation, finishing 15th in the 18 team league and beating the drop on goal difference. After being relieved of his duties following that poor campaign, Yoshida took charge of Venforet Kofu in 2017, but could not keep them in the division, with the club finishing 16th. Yoshida was sacked by the club just 11 matches into the subsequent J2 League season.
Out of the 102 J1 League matches Yoshida has managed, he suffered 49 defeats (48%), drew 26 times and could only secure 27 victories (26.5%). This means he has a disappointing record in Japanese football, having failed to win league matches in Japan’s top tier 73.5% of the time. (Statistics courtesy of ‘Singapore Football Review’ Facebook page)
With Singapore currently ranked 160th in the FIFA World Rankings, the games against Solomon Islands (139) and Myanmar (140) could provide a chance for the Lions to boost their own ranking with victories over higher-ranked opposition. However, it should be noted that five of the Lions last seven friendlies have come against the likes of the Maldives, Mauritius, Fiji, Mongolia and Cambodia, and in all honesty it seems likely that in order for the team to really improve, we would need to see more friendlies against stronger opposition.
Nonetheless, with the matches a chance for the national team to really get to grips with the new manager's tactics and approach, they could serve as a springboard for the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers. Comprehensive wins and attractive performances in the two games could provide both a confidence boost to the players as well as increase local fans' backing for the side. With the Lions best performances in recent years (the 1-0 win over Indonesia and the 6-1 mauling of Timor Leste spring to mind) coming in front of huge crowds at the National Stadium, the return of a vociferous home support could well be the catalyst for an era of change at Kallang.