Suzuki Cup debutant Ismadi not worried by the pressure

He will be making his AFF Suzuki Cup debut tonight against Thailand, but right-back Ismadi Mukhtar says he is not overly concerned by the pressure he will be placed under.

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Ismadi, who turns 31 next month, was a surprise addition to the Singapore squad considering he had never been called up for any international squad until earlier this year.

Head Coach Bernd Stange had previously claimed that he was only looking to create a youthful squad by calling up younger players, and the majority of those in the AFF Suzuki Cup squad have come from both the Courts Young Lions and the LionsXII.

Much has been made about the lack of opportunities for S.League players.

Nevertheless, Ismadi, who plies his trade with Tampines Rovers, represents something of a contradiction.

He has since earned four caps, and the oldest player in the Singapore squad, who looks set to get the nod ahead of Al-Qaasimy Rahman as a starter at right-back, insists he is up for the task against the speedy Thai forwards.

“Of course there is pressure in every game,” Ismadi told FourFourTwo.

“Considering I am the oldest in the team, I am expected to work harder but I have said since day one that I will give my best and that it doesn’t matter what’s my age."

“But we do not focus much on things that are not related to our game. We will just focus on our own game. The critics have singled us out for our defending, so that has been our main focus."

“If we do it right, then we won’t have any problems with Thailand’s attack. We know our strengths, I know my own strength."

“I have speed too so I think it will be a good fight.”

Ismadi’s call up also represents what he terms as a ‘personal achievement’ for himself, especially after his Tampines team-mate Jufri Taha was called up for friendlies before the previous Suzuki Cup in 2012, only to miss out on a spot.

Yet this time round, Ismadi has survived the cull at the very same right-back role.

And despite playing almost the entire season in midfield with his club, he is not troubled by the need to adapt to a new role.

“Since my time in Tampines, I have played this wing-back role so I think I know my part, especially how to defend and also overlap. (There’s) not much difference (for me), be it at right-back or left-back,” Ismadi explained.  

“Of course, the team bonding and spirit has played a big part in helping me integrate into the squad."

“Every new place you go to, you try to adapt to the change in environment – the different teams, different teammates. You try to blend with them."

“If the coach picks me, I will certainly give my best.”