Izzdin thriving on fierce competition for LionsXII midfield slots

LionsXII midfielder Izzdin Shafiq is relishing being a first team regular in his second spell at the club.

Despite the fierce competition now with the likes of Firdaus Kasman, Isa Halim, Safuwan Baharudin and Shahdan Sulaiman all in contention for the midfield, Izzdin has been an ever-present for the LionsXII this season and the only player to have started every game thus far.

In Saturday’s 2-1 win against Terengganu FA in the Malaysia FA Cup semi-final first leg tie, he put up yet another impressive shift in the middle of the park – controlling the tempo of the game and opening up the opponents with a series of raking crossfield passes.

Speaking to FourFourTwo after the game, the 24-year-old said that the number of midfield options that Fandi Ahmad has at his disposal is something which has kept him on his toes.

“It’s been really challenging for me,” he said. 

“Since coming back here from Home United, I really think my fitness has improved a lot and that has helped me. With so many midfielders, I need to fight very hard for my position.

“It’s not easy to stay consistent but I take every game seriously. It’s not that I must perform in every game, but I make it a point to give my very best in every game to help the team.”

Buoyed by his solid form this season, Izzdin is setting sights on a first-ever national senior team call-up.

“I really hope so (to get a place) and that is my dream,” he said.

“Coach Fandi has been telling me to think positive in every game and that I’ve to play well not for others, but for my own benefit.”

The win over the Turtles also marked Safuwan’s first game for the LionsXII since his return from the three-month loan stint at A-League side Melbourne City.

The 23-year-old forged an excellent midfield partnership with Izzdin, who had first-hand experience of the level of improvement in his game.

“From what I see, he has improved a lot,” he explained.

“He has improved just nice in terms of physicality, but also his passing range and heading ability.

“It’s great to have him in the team because I need not worry too much about doing the defensive work; he can challenge for every ball which makes it easier for me.

With the team holding a one-goal advantage going into the second leg at Kuala Terengganu, Izzdin hopes his side can seal progress and enter their first ever Malaysia FA Cup final.

“We’re one step closer now, but playing away is always difficult,” he said.

“We cannot afford to sit back; we need to push and press them, just like how we played against JDT II in the second leg of the quarter final.”