LionsXII winger Christopher van Huizen is one of a few surprises named in Bernd Stange’s 24-man, suspension-hit Singapore squad to take on Afghanistan and Cambodia in the upcoming 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
Courts Young Lions Amirul Adli and Anumanthan Mohan Kumar also earn recalls to the squad, which will be without key midfielders Hariss Harun and Safuwan Baharudin for Thursday’s clash with Afghanistan.
Van Huizen has been in sparkling form for the LionsXII in the ongoing Malaysia Cup, providing three assists in four games, including the pinpoint cross for Safuwan to head home the late winner against Terengganu FA at home two weeks ago.
The 22-year-old’s form has not gone unnoticed as evident from this maiden call-up to the Singapore national team as he vowed not to rest on his laurels.
“It has been a great year for me,” Van Huizen reflected, a journey FourFourTwo has followed closely. “I must thank coaches Bernd Stange and Fandi Ahmad for their roles in guiding and mentoring me.
“I am grateful to them for their trust and confidence in me. I will continue to work hard and keep learning from my coaches.
“In addition, my family and fans also played a key role in my progress during the past one year and it is my wish to see our fans clad in red and pack the National Stadium on both match days.
“This is a young team and the fans’ support will make a difference to us.”
Meanwhile Amirul and Anumanthan have been rewarded for playing pivotal roles in the resurgence of the Courts Young Lions since the completion of their failed Southeast Asian (SEA) Games gold medal quest.
In particular the latter fired home a 25-yard scorcher to help the developmental side shock Tampines Rovers 1-0 in an S.League clash two weeks ago.
“Christopher, Adli and Anu are three of our best young talents,” explained coach Stange.
“They have performed well for their respective clubs in the past few months. Their call-up to the national team is testament to the hard work they have put in as well as the significant roles played by their club coaches.
“I am happy to have this squad and these are the best available players. Going forward, I will continue to identify and select more young players for the national team.”
The Lions are looking to bounce back from the 1-0 defeat against Syria in early September, but the quest will not be easy given Hariss and Safuwan’s absence due to yellow cards picked up earlier in qualifying.
Coach Stange is hoping that the rest of the players step up in their absence.
“We will continue to play our way of football and our players will have to step up,” he said. “With passion, commitment and determination, we will try to overcome the absence of Hariss and Safuwan – two of our top players – for the Afghanistan match.
“This is a young team but I am confident in these boys. We have to fight from the first till the very last minute against Afghanistan and we need to give our very best. If we do so and together with our fans, there will only be one winner – and that is us.”
Lions commence their centralised training on Monday, before hosting Afghanistan on October 8 and Cambodia on October 13. Both matches will be played at the Singapore Sports Hub.
SINGAPORE SQUAD TO TAKE ON AFGHANISTAN AND CAMBODIA:
Goalkeepers: Hassan Sunny (Army United), Izwan Mahbud (LionsXII), Zaiful Nizam (Balestier Khalsa)
Defenders: Faritz Hameed, Madhu Mohana, Shakir Hamzah, Hafiz Sujad (LionsXII), Baihakki Khaizan (JDT II), Amirul Adli (Courts Young Lions), Shaiful Esah (Tampines Rovers)
Midfielders: Nazrul Nazari, Safuwan Baharudin, Izzdin Shafiq, Zulfahmi Arifin, Faris Ramli, Christopher van Huizen (LionsXII), Yasir Hanapi (Home Utd), Anumanthan Mohan Kumar (Courts Young Lions), Hariss Harun (JDT)
Forwards: Khairul Nizam, Khairul Amri, Sahil Suhaimi (LionsXII), Shahril Ishak (JDT II), Fazrul Nawaz (Warriors FC)