Singapore Football

Key duels that spice 
up tonight's SOS Cup

Intriguing clashes a continuing highlight of contests between Singapore and Selangor sides

Fandi Ahmad versus Soh Chin Aun. Nazri Nasir against Zolst Bucs. Kadir Yahaya taking on Azman Adnan.

These are just some of the battles that have illuminated previous Singapore-Selangor clashes during the Malaysia Cup era from 1980s to 1990s.

And as the Sultan of Selangor's (SOS) Cup is played in Singapore tonight, for the first time since 2009, more duels are in store.

Both sides have assembled teams packed with international experience and firepower to thrill an expected crowd of more than 25,000 fans at the National Stadium.

DEFENDER IRFAN FANDI

The 19-year-old centre back continues to not just live up to his family name, but he's also carving a niche for himself.

A menace during corners, he has already matched his season-best tally of two goals, from just six league games. He also scored one against Yadanarbon in the AFC Cup.

On top of that, Irfan has helped his team keep three clean sheets in the S.League as well.

Singapore Selection coach Fandi Ahmad said of his firstborn: "Of course, as a father, I'm proud of him, but he has to earn his place in the team on his own merit.

"It is important for him to keep his focus and follow his coaches' instructions. I'm sure he can handle the bigger opponents, he just has to play with more confidence and authority."


FORWARD PATRICK WLEH

The 25-year-old Liberian striker has a few scores to settle tonight.

In last May's SOS Cup, he was on the losing team as the Singapore Selection side won on penalties.

A few days later, at the National Stadium, the man nicknamed Ronaldinho also came up short as Tampines Rovers dumped Selangor out of the AFC Cup, courtesy of a Yasir Hanapi beauty.

In 4½ seasons north of the Causeway, he has scored 48 league goals.

"Yeah, the pressure is on us to win because we are representing Selangor, and I want to carry the cup back to Malaysia," said Wleh.

"Our league form is not that good, so if we can win this tough match against Singapore, we will be able to return to league action with more confidence."


MIDFIELDER HARISS HARUN

The Lions' lynchpin has brushed aside the disappointment of a botched move to Spain and got down to business back at home.

Hariss, 26, is a serial collector of trophies, with four Malaysian Super League, one AFC Cup and one Suzuki Cup winners' medals in his cabinet.

That mentality has rubbed off on his Home United teammates, as they remain unbeaten in the league and made it to the AFC Cup zonal semi-finals.

"Winning is infectious. I love this feeling and I just want to play regularly and keep it going, even for a friendly like this," said Hariss, whose first and only SOS Cup match in 2009 ended in a 3-0 win at Jalan Besar.

He added: "We are playing at home, that's all the motivation we need to put on a good show."


MIDFIELDER K. GURUSAMY

"Guru" once led the Malaysian midfield, striking gold at the 2009 and 2011 SEA Games, with the 2010 Suzuki Cup title sandwiched in between.

A product of the Bukit Jalil Sports School, he progressed to Harimau Muda, with whom he underwent a three-month stint in Slovakia.

At international level, the 28-year-old would leave the glamorous bits of the job to the likes of Safiq Rahim, and industriously mop up the midfield with his hard running and tackling.

He said: "As someone born and raised in Selangor, this Cup is a big thing and a matter of pride for us.

"I've played many times against Hariss and he is one of the team's strongest players. It is important to win the midfield battle and we will try to execute our coach's strategy to do so."


FORWARD SHAHRIL ISHAK

Many local footballers would be content with a career that includes three Suzuki Cup titles, 132 caps, and stints in Malaysia and Indonesia.

But, even at 33, Shahril Ishak is showing no signs of slowing down. After signing for Warriors FC, the playmaker has notched four goals and three assists, and is currently the top local scorer in the S.League.

In the absence of the injured forward Stipe Plazibat, Shahril could take turns with Albirex Niigata's Kento Nagasaki to provide a constant flow of ammunition for the likes of Khairul Nizam, Jordan Webb and Faris Ramli.

Said Shahril: "This may be a friendly, but to make the team means you must have been playing well in the league and the call-up is a big positive for me.

"I miss such big occasions of playing in front of a packed home crowd for a Singapore team and we want to play and win a good game to make our fans happy."


DEFENDER AZMI MUSLIM

The left-sided defender first burst into prominence in 2006 when he was recruited into reality TV side MyTeam, which had merged with UPB FC.

Despite his first club's closure in 2009, the former forklift driver's football dreams became a reality when he won the SEA Games gold under K Rajagobal before being promoted to the senior national team.

At 30, his legs may have lost a yard of pace on the overlap, but the maturity has also made him a more responsible player.

Azmi said: "My best memory of the tournament was when we won 2-1 at Shah Alam in 2014. I'm stepping into my 30s and I'm looking at coaching after I'm done playing.

"I also don't know how many more SOS Cups I can be a part of, so I'm definitely looking forward to giving it my all for the win this year."

npsports@sph.com.sg

SelangorSingaporeFootball