It's less than three months before the AFF Suzuki Cup kicks off and Singapore will be without injured key forward Fazrul Nawaz, who suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear in Tampines Rovers' 2-1 S.League defeat to Hougang United last month. Yet there are still a few good striking options at V Sundramoorthy's disposal. Here are five of them...
- Age: 23
- Height: 1.86m
- 2016 tally: 4 goals, 7 assists in all competitions
Iqbal's potential has been clear ever since he broke onto the scene in 2012 as a 19-year-old with Gombak United. But inconsistency and alleged disciplinary issues plagued his game over the past few years.
When he gets on to his favoured foot, he can be rather unstoppable
A reunion with the coach that gave him his professional debut at Hougang United – K Balagumaran – for the 2016 season has proven to be the catalyst for a change of fortunes for the lanky forward, however, as he has cut out his tendency of drifting in and out of matches.
He has also shown more maturity in his decision-making in the final third.
Some may scoff at ‘Bala’ for likening him to Singapore greats like S Rajagopal and R Suriamurthi, but indeed Iqbal has a similarly sweet left peg that can change a game.
Comfortable on both flanks as well as upfront, the 23-year-old is one of the rare Singapore attackers with the ability to produce nifty footwork to fool opposing defenders.
When he gets on to his favoured left foot, he can be rather unstoppable (as seen below at the 2:49 mark of the clip).
- Age: 25
- Height: 1.78m
- 2016 tally: 7 goals, 3 assists in all competitions
If Sundram is looking for an out-and-out centre forward, Nizam is perhaps the best option in Singapore right now. The 25-year-old's season at Home United has been disrupted by injury here and there, but whenever he has played, he has produced the goods.
His playing style resembles Lions cult figure Noh Alam Shah, with similar aggression and the willingness to chase down lost causes. Should Sundram opt for a traditional 4-4-2 formation, Nizam could prove the perfect foil for Khairul Amri.
Already the burly front man has earned a glowing endorsement from his half-brother Khairul Amri.
The Nizam-Amri pairing worked out well for LionsXII in 2015 and they may well be the duo to fire Singapore to Suzuki Cup glory.
- Age: 24
- Height: 1.7m
- 2016 tally: 5 goals, 4 assists in all competitions
Few would doubt Sahil's ability on a football field. After all, he has the acceleration to spin away from defenders, can draw fouls in crucial areas and also packs a good shot.
Over the last couple of years for club and country, however, he has often been shunted to the flanks, which impacts upon his effectiveness. Yet Fazrul's absence could well pave the way for the 24-year-old to stake his claim for the centre forward role he craves.
We have seen this fleet-footed attacker impress when leading the lines for the national under-23s. Sahil's direct runs through the middle could also help stretch defences and free up space for Amri to wreak havoc.
- Age: 24
- Height: 1.74m
- 2016 tally: 1 assist in all competitions
Remember him? Shahfiq was one of the standout players for LionsXII in their 2013 Malaysia Super League-winning season, but faded into oblivion after missing the 2015 SEA Games and a large part of the 2016 season through injury.
Thus it is easy to forget how good a player he can be. The technically-sound 24-year-old possesses a magical left foot that can be a real game-changer, as seen in this free-kick brace against Palestine in the 2014 Asian Games (see below).
His understanding with Geylang International teammate Sahil also helps his cause, with the duo scoring an incredible 82 goals between them over two seasons with the National Football Academy's (NFA) under-17 and under-18 teams.
Shahfiq still has to prove his fitness and it could be a Jack Wilshere-like risk to bring him to the Suzuki Cup, but we say it’s still worth a try.
- Age: 22
- Height: 1.78m
- 2016 tally: 8 goals, 3 assists in all competitions
The stats don't lie – Fareez is currently the top local goalscorer for the 2016 S.League season.
Moving away from the numbers, the 22-year-old has done enough talking on the pitch this term to prove he is worthy of national team inclusion.
Thriving under the responsibility of guiding an inexperienced Garena Young Lions outfit and training alongside Singapore centurion Amri, his all-round game has visibly matured.
Previously more known as a winger who loves to cut in and shoot, Fareez has been deployed upfront on a few occasions and displayed a good ability to arrive late in the box to convert his chances.
That said, his form has tailed off a little and it is down to him to rediscover those enterprising performances from the start of the season to convince Sundram to give him the opportunity.
Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo