Red-hot Fazrul ready to lead Singapore line

With Khairul Amri out with a hamstring injury, the stage looks set for Fazrul Nawaz to start up front for Singapore as they take on mighty Japan in their World Cup qualifying encounter at the Sports Hub on Thursday night.

Fazrul has been regularly deployed on the right side of midfield under coach Bernd Stange, but is likely to be handed the opportunity to start in his favoured forward position against Japan due to Amri’s injury layoff.

Despite the imminent switch in position, the 30-year-old believes his responsibilities have not changed.

“For me, every game is the same – chase down loose balls and make it as hard for the opposition as possible,” he said.

“It really depends on the game plan which coach Stange wants and I’m ready to play in any position where he wants me to play.”

It has been a prolific season so far for Fazrul, who has scored 18 league goals for Warriors FC – just two behind S.League top scorer Rafael Ramazotti of Brunei DPMM.

The feat is more impressive given he had missed the first three games of the season and had to recover psychologically after a failed move to Sabah FA.

The former LionsXII forward credited his family and Warriors FC for his much-improved displays.

“For me, the biggest motivation is my family,” he said.

“I fought hard because of them and I just want to keep on doing what I’m good at. I’m in the best form of my career so far and I don’t want it to stop.

“Also I’m really grateful that the Warriors has been there for me this season and I want to give something back to the club.”

With nine goals in 77 international appearances so far, Fazrul is setting his sights on earning a century caps to join the likes of Shahril Ishak, Baihakki Khaizan and Khairul Amri in the centurions’ club.

“Of course I’ll love to achieve that, so it’s important to stay as fit and healthy as long as I can,” said the man who made his international debut against Malaysia back in 2005. 

“I have to be thankful to the senior players whom I’ve played with before, especially when I got my first international cap – they helped me a lot and I look up to them as my mentors.

“The way they train and keep themselves fit is something that is really spurring me on to do that kind of thing.”

Fazrul’s immediate task is to stifle Japan again, just like how the Lions did in Saitama back in June, and he believes the key is to neutralise the threat of Borussia Dortmund playmaker Shinji Kagawa.

“The main thing is to stop Kagawa,” he said bluntly. “He’s very fast in his movements and has good speed on the ball, so we’ll need to be very careful of his quick moments.

“I remember when we played them in Saitama, the teammates will always be looking to get the ball to him so that he can supply key players like (Shinji) Okazaki and (Keisuke) Honda.

“If we can shut him and (Makoto Hasebe) in centre midfield, it’ll be a major step forward for us.”

With more than 25,000 tickets sold for this much-anticipated clash, Fazrul hopes that home ground advantage will prove to be crucial for the Lions in their quest to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup.

“Of course fans play a big part in these kind of games, so I hope more can come down and support us,” he said.

“Hopefully we can hit a full house; it’s been a long time since we've seen that at this stadium.”