FFT’s potential Singapore starting XI to face Syria
The first of two last friendly before the AFF Suzuki Cup is played on Wednesday and V.Sundramoorthy choose to play against Syria, a team he felt was similar to Philippines — Singapore’s Group A opponents and tournament hosts.
Against Middle-Eastern team Bahrain in September, Sundram did not raise any eyebrows with his starting 11.
Singapore's Starting 11 vs Hong Kong
GK: Izwan Mahbud
RB: Madhu Mohana
CB: Baihakki Khaizan
CB: Daniel Bennett
LB: Shakir Hamzah
CM: Hariss Harun
RW: Iqbal Hussain
LW: Gabriel Quak
AM: Khairul Amri
FW: Irfan Fandi
But it would be surprising if he did not try to experiment this time around, especially after bringing in Shahdan Sulaiman and Shafiq Ghani into the line-up.
The two were out injured for a long time but they came back strongly at the tailend of the 2016 season to give Sundram more options in the creative department.
Here, FourFourTwo picks the starting 11 who we think would start.
Goalkeeper: Hassan Sunny
With this close to the tournament, Sundram should have a clear idea who his number one will be.
Izwan Mahbud was given the nod against Hong Kong in October but he leaked in two goals and a horrendous blunder just weeks ago against Albirex Niigata (S) in the Singapore Cup final did him no favours.
Hassan has not played since he stood in goal against Malaysia, when he kept a clean sheet.
The former Warriors custodian had three games left when the Thai Premier League resumed but the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej brought a halt to all league activities.
It is expected that Sundram will play Hassan here.
Right-back: Faritz Hameed
This will be a three-way fight between Faritz Hameed, Juma’at Jantan and Madhu Mohana.
Interestingly enough, all three were given a chance each in Singapore’s last three games. Juma’at started against Bahrain, before giving way to Faritz against Malaysia, while Madhu earned the nod ahead of the other two against Hong Kong.
Against the speedy and burly Syrians, Sundram might opt to pick Faritz, who played arguably one of his best games in the national colours against Malaysia.
Centre-back: Baihakki Khaizan
There is no debate here; by far and large, Bai is still one of the best defenders this nation has and Sundram has to start him.
The veteran defender has played against Syria plenty of times so his experience should stand him in good stead here.
Centre-back: Daniel Bennett
The million dollar question is: who will partner Bai in defence?
Bennett has been playing alongside the Johor Darul Ta’zim defender for the past few games and it seems he is the favourite to start again after an outstanding season at the back despite being 38 of age.
However, Bennett will face competition from fit-again Home United defender Abdil Qaiyyim and Sundram might want to see how he could complement Bai.
Left-back: Shakir Hamzah
If anything, it seems Sundram has made up his mind on who to fill in this position, with Shakir a constant at left-back.
Hafiz Sujad is a contender too but he will most likely play in the left-wing role, as he is adept at tracking back and providing width going forward.
Right-midfield: Faris Ramli
Will Sundram deviate from his regular choice Gabriel Quak and hand out a start to Faris Ramli? It could be the case.
Quak has started in Singapore’s last three matches and also scored a winner against Syria in 2013, after slotting home from distance in a 2-1 win.
But Faris provides more trickery and Quak’s pace will be an asset in the later stages of the game, so Sundram could opt for the former to start instead.
Centre-midfield: Hariss Harun
Singapore’s de facto captain and midfield general, there is absolutely no way Hariss will not start, even if he did miss the training camp in Qatar after being given a break by Sundram.
Hariss’ doggedness will be essential to the Lions, if they wish to contain Syria.
Centre-midfield: Shahdan Sulaiman
Sundram admitted that in his inability to score is a concern and hence a reason why he called up Shahdan, due to his flair and creativity.
Shahdan only recently returned from injury so his fitness may be a suspect.
However, he showed some of his abilities in the final few games of the S.League season and gave hope that he could perhaps be Sundram’s missing piece to the jigsaw puzzle.
Left-midfield: Hafiz Sujad
Unless Sundram decides to play Hafiz in defence, his preference for a winger willing to track back should see the latter play on the flanks.
Hafiz does not stand out very often due to his lack of goals and assists but he never gives anything less than 100% and is actually vital in helping open defences up with his tireless runs.
Attacking midfielder: Safuwan Baharudin
FourFourTwo could be wrong, and Shahdan could start here instead, with Safuwan taking his place alongside Hariss.
But Safuwan’s physical presence in the hole will be vital in allowing his teammates to get into better positions so the PDRM man could play here.
His aerial abilities will also be useful against the physically bigger Syrians.
Forward: Khairul Amri
Amri wasted a handful of chances last year, when he played against Syria but he showed plenty to suggest he could trouble their defence.
Arguably the only player in the squad to have it in him to score a winner from out of nowhere, Amri is a near certain starter for the Lions.