Since the biennial AFF Suzuki Cup’s birth as the premier regional football competition for Southeast Asian nations in 1996, Laos have failed to get past the group stage with all of their campaigns proving to be underwhelming.
In the past ten editions that they have competed in from 1996 to 2012 (they did not qualify in 2016) The National Team were only able to muster two wins (in 1996 and 2004) and five separate draws (1996, 1998, 2002, 2010, 2012). It is sad to note that the rest of the 33 matches that they have participated in, 26 games in all, ended up in losses.
19 different head coaches have come and gone from 1996, and out of those host of mentors, from the time Laos recorded the performances of their gaffers, only one had a career record of more than 50% of games won, Russian Valeriy Vdovin (three wins in four matches for a 75% winning rate).
It seems managing the regional underdogs requires a certain magic touch and up until now, there isn’t anyone who was able to dial in to such a sweet spot.
Then came October 2018 – V. Sundramoorthy of Singapore who, after serving as The Lions’ manager from 2016 to April 2018, moved on to take a different challenge by guiding the Laotian squad with the hopes of coming up with a much better run of results.
A goalscoring machine during his playing days for the Singapore national team, Sundramoorthy served as Singapore’s manager with results far from what was desired, especially going winless in competitive matches, particularly in the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup.
One of the criticisms thrown at him during his tenure at the helm of the Lion City’s national football team was his conservative, even overly-cautious, tactics. But it could be possible that due to the immense pressure in terms of demands in handling the reins of the four time AFF Champions (a separate discussion in itself) which eventually led to the poor run of results and his decision to eventually step down from the hot-seat and end his contract with the FA of Singapore through mutual consent.
Now that Sundramoorthy is the gaffer of Laos – still relatively considered as minnows, but a squad brimming with young talents, potential, and intent of improving themselves as a national football team, the situation that the 2013 Malaysia Super League champion coach is faced with is more of an opportunity with full of optimism instead of, probably, very immense pressure in comparison with coaching The Lions.
In Laos, theoretically there’s no place to go but up, and that is the challenge right now that the Singaporean is most probably about to seize with a good dose of motivation.
With a clean slate, in a national team that is looking for progress rather than glory, and without the burden of a team that has a winning history, tradition and pedigree, Sundramoorthy could be a more enterprising coach with regards to his tactics that, hopefully, could surprise Southeast Asian football and pull off surprisingly positive results in the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup.