Youngsters Taufik and Safirul called up by Singapore for Japan and Syria clashes

Courts Young Lions duo Taufik Suparno and Safirul Sulaiman are amongst the surprises named in Bernd Stange’s 23-strong Singapore squad to take on Japan and Syria in next week’s joint World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers. 

Both players are rewarded for playing their parts in the recent resurgence of the Young Lions under interim coach Juergen Raab.

Taufik, 20, earns a first-ever call-up after enjoying a good year where he inspired Tampines Rovers to the Prime League title, before linking up with the Young Lions outfit a couple of months ago.

He scored his first S.League goal in mid-October with a tap-in that helped the under-23 outfit defeat defending champions Warriors FC 2-1.

Meanwhile 23-year-old Safirul makes the national team squad for the first time under Stange, having earned five caps back in 2012 when predecessor Raddy Avramovic was still in charge.

The youngest member of the squad is 19-year-old Amirul Adli, who has been a colossal figure at the back for the Young Lions.

“I have included two of the best young talents in the S.League, Amirul and Taufik, who have performed consistently well in the past few weeks,” explained Stange of his latest squad selection.

“Taufik deserves the call-up and it will be a key opportunity for him to train with, and learn from, the best national players in Singapore during the next two weeks, including captain Shahril Ishak and Hariss Harun.”

Otherwise the core of the squad which defeated Afghanistan and Cambodia in October has been retained, although key forward Khairul Amri misses out through injury.

The 30-year-old suffered a fresh hamstring injury during LionsXII’s 2-1 away win against Terengganu FA in the Malaysia Cup on Wednesday and will be out for four weeks.

“Injuries and suspensions are part and parcel of the game,” said Stange.

Main striker Khairul Amri will miss both matches through injury

“We feel sad that Amri will miss the matches against top Asian teams and we hope that he recovers well.”

The Lions currently sit in third place in Group E with 10 points from five matches. Syria has 12 points from five matches, while Japan is second also with 10 points from four games.

Ticket prices for these two upcoming matches will start from $10 for a concession ticket, exclusively for Singapore fans. Fans are advised to purchase their tickets soon as certain categories are selling fast.

Meanwhile Japan have also released their star-studded 23-strong squad for next Thursday’s big clash against Singapore at the Singapore Sports Hub.

The Blue Samurai, ranked 55th in the world, have called up 11 overseas-based players including the likes of Borussia Dortmund playmaker Shinji Kawaga, AC Milan forward Keisuke Honda and Leicester City’s Shinji Okazaki.

Vahid Halilhodzic’s side surely have a point to prove in this upcoming match, after being held to a shock 0-0 draw by Singapore in Saitama back in June.

SINGAPORE SQUAD TO TAKE ON JAPAN AND SYRIA  

Goalkeepers: Hassan Sunny (Army United), Izwan Mahbud (LionsXII), Zaiful Nizam (Balestier Khalsa)

Defenders: Nazrul Nazari, Faritz Hameed, Madhu Mohana, Shakir Hamzah, (LionsXII), Baihakki Khaizan (JDT II), Amirul Adli (Courts Young Lions), Shaiful Esah (Tampines Rovers)

Midfielders:  Safuwan Baharudin, Izzdin Shafiq, Zulfahmi Arifin, Faris Ramli, Christopher van Huizen, Hafiz Sujad (LionsXII), Safirul Sulaiman (Courts Young Lions), Hariss Harun (JDT), Yasir Hanapi (Home Utd)

Forwards: Sahil Suhaimi (LionsXII), Taufik Suparno (Courts Young Lions), Shahril Ishak (JDT II), Fazrul Nawaz (Warriors FC)

Main photo courtesy of the S.League