Shakir ready to step up and fill central defensive void

Baihakki Khaizan’s suspension may have left a huge gap to fill in central defence, but Shakir Hamzah is confident he will be up to task if called upon.

The battle is between LionsXII teammates Afiq Yunos and Shakir to replace Baihakki in the starting line-up, but with Afiq having not made the bench for the previous two Suzuki Cup games, it appears that Shakir will be the most probable selection.

Despite having played almost all of his football at left-back this year, Shakir is no stranger to the centre-back position - he has played in that position for both club and countries on occasions in the past two years.

Experience is also something Shakir has in abundance, with the defender making his international debut in June 2012 against Malaysia, and he has been a permanent fixture in the squad since Bernd Stange took over.

“For me right now, I have confidence,” Shakir told FourFourTwo.

Even though I wasn’t in the first eleven [for the previous two games], I will have the confidence to step up and fill in the gap.

“I have been prepared since the Suzuki Cup started.

 “Any player that gets to play in the match will be prepared, because we’ve had hard training sessions to keep them as fit as the first eleven.

“We don’t know the starting line up yet. It’s up to the coaches to decide what their plans are.

“Whoever goes in will definitely give his best.”

Something that will help Shakir for sure, if he’s eventually given the starting nod, is his familiarity with the opponents stemming from his participation in the Malaysian Super League and the annual Causeway Challenge.

“Against Malaysia, every year we have the Causeway Challenge,” Shakir said.

“They are going to be very hard to beat but we know their style of football and we know most of the Malaysian players in the team [because of our LionsXII participation]. Most of them are from JDT, they are quite old and experienced but we know them inside out.

“We, as players know who the danger men are. It’s definitely going to be their two strikers (Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and Safee Sali) and Amri Yahyah.

“We will do our best to get the three points and secure qualification to the next round.”

Photo: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo