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Maintain Consistency Is Coach Yoshinaga's Biggest Challenge

Barely into the second round of the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SGPL) had Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic ate his words.

Speaking to The New Paper (TNP) after his side's five-nil defeat to defending champions Albirex Niigata (Singapore) on the 27th of May, the Croatian coach declared: "Albirex are looking like champions. There's no way to chase them, they're too good this year."

Albirex is simply the best so far in SGPL.

This marked a stark contrast to his earlier remarks in April when he claimed the Yuhua-based side "are definitely not as strong as last year", a sentiment seemingly echoed by his Home United counterpart Aidil Sharin, as suggested in a separate article that appeared on The Straits Times.

Ironically, the Protectors were crushed 6-1 by the White Swans at their Bishan backyard on the very same day when the said broadsheet carried those thoughts with Adam Swandi scoring the final goal in the dying minutes against his former club.

Perhaps those earlier assessments from the duo, who were once touted to replace V Sundram moorthy as Singapore national coach, were based on the fact that Albirex is required to field a younger squad for this season.

Under the new criteria specifically imposed on them, the White Swans are required to fill up their roster with 50% of their squad with Under-21 players, with another 50% being players of Under-23 category, with one player being allowed under the "Open" category plus an option to recruit two local players who must be classified under the Under-23 manpower.

Adam Swandi joined Albirex this season

As the result, Albirex revamped their entire squad by retaining only veteran custodian Yosuke Nozawa and midfielder Hiroyoshi Kamata and recruited a number of players who were playing university football last year coupled with breakthrough signings of local players like Adam and 'keeper Shahul Rayyan.

A relatively slow start by their standard saw Kazuaki Yoshinaga's men notched up small margin victories against the likes of Tampines Rovers, Brunei DPMM before unleashing their prowess by shredding apart the Protectors on the 18th of April.

By the end of the first round of this season, Albirex established a commanding lead on the league table with a perfect ten record of eight wins out of eight.

The jaw-dropping performance by his team did not see Coach Yoshinaga resting on his laurels and he was always quick to make known to the media after games on those areas he was not pleased with of his team's performance during those matches.

Maintaining consistency is Coach Yoshinaga's biggest challenge

Perhaps the lack of competitive opponents presently in the SGPL is one of his main concerns and that is why he needs to set those high expectations on his players in order to excel further.

That sheer hunger for perfection is probably one of the reasons that set the White Swans apart from the rest, as illustrated in an online comment by an observer.

"They are often not content even after every win and keep implying that there is still room for improvements in their performance and correcting any mistake made in the match... All these issues coupled with their superior fitness and teamwork attribute to the success." replied "Chris Tsubasa" to one of the recent postings on this blog's Facebook page on the current form of Albirex.

Unless the rest of the league are able to devise a plan to stop them, it could be a possibility to see the Japanese boys not only dominate the scene again but also a chance to be on the Guinness World Record too.


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