Amirul: Facing Oman doesn't faze me
Key midfielder Zulfahmi broke down during the opening game against Tajikistan, and Singapore's qualification hopes rest on the shoulders of his less experienced understudy.
“I’m not going to call this biggest game of my career,” Amirul told FourFourTwo on Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m not going to think that way as I will put unnecessary pressure on myself. Despite being the youngest player here, I don’t feel pressured because I’ve great seniors to guide me along.
“I know the expectations for us coming into this game and I will give my all to make sure we get a positive outcome.”
The youngster's confidence no doubt stems from the clash against Tajikistan three days ago when he likewise had to step in as a substitute to replace the crocked Zulfahmi before the half-hour mark.
Despite playing much of the season at centre back for the Courts Young Lions, the 18-year-old seemed unruffled alongside club teammate Anumanthan Mohan Kumar in central midfield for Singapore.
“I was certainly not expecting to play,” he recalled.
“There were other good players on the bench as well and I was warming up with Iqbal (Hussain) when I was suddenly called out to play.
“I was nervous initially but I tried my best to stay calm and compose myself.
“It took me some time to get used to the tempo but I adapted and felt much better as the game went on.”
Despite a largely flawless display, Amirul gave himself only a rating of 6/10 as he seeks to realise his ambition of being a national team regular.
“I definitely want to improve on my technique and fitness,” said the Young Lions player, who has one international cap to his name thus far.
“Not just that, I also need to show better attitude and desire. It’s a long and tough road to polish up all these but I’m glad that I’ve given the chance to be in this team.
“This level of football is definitely something which is new is me but it’s great that I have players like Bai (Baihakki) Khaizan, Hassan (Sunny) and Afiq (Yunos) who always have my back.
“It feels really exciting to be in the same team as them and I can learn a lot from them on how to develop my game.”
With group favorites Oman falling to a shock loss to Palestine on Sunday, Amirul reckons the task against Wednesday night's opponents has been made a whole lot tougher.
“We saw the first half of that game (before returning to the hostel),” he said.
“They are great in keeping possession so I guess I’ve to be extra focused to intercept their passes and be stronger in my tackles.
Of course just like us, they’re fighting for the win so it’s definitely not going to be easy for us.”
However Amirul is confident that the midfield pairing between him and Anumanthan can stop Oman, ranked 67th in the world.
“Anu’s like a brother to me,” he said.
“He always gives me advice whenever I need. I guess our chemistry off the pitch is the reason why we work well and complement each other on it.”
The clash between Singapore Under-23s and Oman Under-23s will kick off at the Hwaseong Stadium tonight at 8pm local time (7pm Singapore time).
Photo: Football Association of Singapore