Safuwan Baharudin stoked to be back at centre-back for Singapore

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One such move was to send team manager Eric Ong and player mentor Noh Alam Shah to Kuantan, for a chat with Safuwan about reprising the role that won him adulation as one of Southeast Asia’s best centre-back.

That chat proved fruitful as Safuwan partnered Baihakki Khaizan and Irfan Fandi against Mauritius, Fiji and Mongolia to great effect.

Singapore only conceded one goal in those three matches, and Safuwan reckons the move back to central defence has been a long time coming.

“I can’t recall when was the last time I played centre-back, especially for the national team. It is not easy to readjust because I have been playing a midfield position at Pahang,” Safuwan told FOX Sports Asia.

“The defensive midfield role is quite similar as centre-back but for a full-on centre-back role, you have to be sure of your positioning and it was a bit off and rusty for me but I’ve adapted quickly in the first two games against Mauritius and Fiji.

“First game against Mauritius, I had a good partnership with Irfan and then the second half, I partnered Baihakki, and it was especially good.

“After few years of disappointment where we didn’t get the results in big tournaments, I think change was needed prior to this Suzuki Cup,” Safuwan told FOX Sports Asia.

“With limited time left, we knew big changes had to be made and the key change was to change the backline.

“We wasted two editions of Suzuki Cup where we were completely destroyed in the defensive department. I think we failed to keep up with Philippines and Thailand and even Indonesia. This is very important for us to get back on track together.”