Here are 11 Singapore Premier League players for Fandi Ahmad’s consideration before he names his final Singapore squad for the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup.
Singapore head coach Fandi Ahmad may have named his 26-man squad for the upcoming friendlies against Mauritius and Fiji. However, he confirmed that he will call up a few other players during the October FIFA window where they take on Mongolia at home and Cambodia away.
With that thought in mind, we reckon he should cast his eye over these few players for the eventual selection for the AFF Suzuki Cup…
Goalkeeper: Syazwan Buhari
Singapore are not short of quality goalkeepers at the moment, so it is unlucky for Syazwan to be the one to miss out on a call-up. The 25-year-old has impressed in his first season with Tampines Rovers, earning good reviews with his performances in the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup. He has also been a steady pair of hands on the domestic stage, keeping eight clean sheets this season as the Stags currently have the second-best defensive record behind champions Albirex Niigata (S).
Centre-back: Emmeric Ong
Ong can count himself unlucky not to be amongst the names after yet another stellar campaign with Warriors FC. The hardworking 27-year-old is not just solid defensively, but also provides good attacking runs from his right-back position. He is also versatile enough to play a defensive midfield role if called upon.
Centre-back: Madhu Mohana
Madhu’s stock has fallen slightly in the past couple of years, but there is no doubting that he is still one of the best defenders in the country at the moment. The 27-year-old has played his way back into the Tampines starting eleven after a troubled first couple of months at Malaysia Super League side Negeri Sembilan FA. He surely has something to offer with his no-nonsense and tough-tackling style at the heart of defence. Don’t forget that long throw!
Centre-back: Irfan Najeeb
The introduction of the Under-23 ruling in the Singapore Premier League (SPL) has brought forth the rise of a handful of young defenders – with the most prominent one being Irfan. The 19-year-old has not looked back after an impressive debut in a 0-0 draw against Johor Darul Ta’zim in the AFC Cup, establishing himself as a key figure of Tampines’ backline with 14 league starts. His will on the pitch and fearless demeanour towards shackling more experienced forwards is certainly an asset.
Right wing-back: Fadli Kamis
Since joining Balestier Khalsa in 2016, Fadli has been one of the most consistent right-backs in the SPL. The 25-year-old is not only sturdy defensively, but also has a knack of making his presence count in attacking set-pieces – with four goals this season. He is certainly one to depend on, considering that he has missed just 23 minutes of action this year.
Central midfielder: Aqhari Abdullah
Every team needs a player who does the dirty job in the middle of the park and covers every blade of the grass – Aqhari is certainly one that fits the bill. The 27-year-old guarantees 100 per cent commitment in every game and does not hold back in his challenges, although he is considerably small in physique. The Home United man is also capable of filling in at the full-back positions when required.
Central midfielder: Amirul Adli
One of the biggest surprises of Fandi’s first Singapore squad is that Adli is not amongst the names. More known as a defender or defensive midfielder previously, the 22-year-old has morphed into a box-to-box midfielder with Tampines this term and has also displayed an ability to shoot from distance – with four goals and two assists. Surely he warrants a call-up if he continues his outstanding displays.
Left wing-back: Hafiz Sujad
Hafiz has not had the best of times in the past couple of years after two failed overseas moves, but he is still one of the best in the business when it comes to left-sided players. The reliable 27-year-old can be counted on to do a job – be it as an attacking left-back or a left-winger who tracks back to help out in defence.
Right winger: Hafiz Nor
Another notable exclusion from Fandi’s squad is Hafiz, who has resurrected his career since re-joining Home this season. The 30-year-old has been one of the most exciting Singaporeans this season, with seven goals and six assists in all competitions. Should Singapore continue to struggle for goals or service from wide areas in their upcoming two matches, the case for his inclusion is bound to get stronger.
Left Winger: Hazzuwan Halim
With Singapore shorn of goalscoring wingers, another option which they should perhaps consider is Hazzuwan. The 24-year-old has carried where he left off last season when he was awarded the Young Player of the Year, with five goals and six assists this term. His direct style of play and willingness to take on defenders could give the Lions something extra in the attacking third.
Forward: Fazrul Nawaz
With Khairul Amri being the only experienced out-and-out forward in the current squad, the Lions can certainly make do with another such option upfront in Fazrul – especially if the former suffers an injury. A prolific scorer in the SPL for the last few years, the 33-year-old provides a good foil upfront with his ability to hold up the ball and bring others into play.