One-time defensive stalwart set to partner Amri in Lions' attack
In the last two editions of the AFF Suzuki Cup, Safuwan Baharudin's role was to stop goals.
He excelled at it, forming an unshakable partnership at the heart of the defence alongside Baihakki Khaizan at the 2012 and 2014 tournaments.
While Singapore went on to record a fourth Asean title in 2012, the defensive solidity failed to help the Lions in the defence of their crown two years' later, as they exited the tournament in the opening group stage.
The biennial tournament will kick off next month, and this time, Safuwan looks set to be tasked to score goals.
The versatile 25-year-old is set to play off main striker Khairul Amri in Friday's Causeway Challenge clash against arch-rivals Malaysia at the National Stadium, and he hopes his partnership with the veteran goalscorer can blossom in time for next month's Suzuki Cup in the Philippines.
After a training session at the Geylang Field last night, Safuwan told The New Paper: "Yes, I'm looking forward to it.
"Towards the end of 2015, after my (three-month loan) stint with Melbourne City in the A-League, I started playing in a more offensive role.
"Since then, and up till now, I've got a few goals for the national team and for my club, so it's now about how I can carry that momentum into the Suzuki Cup.
"I'm not sure if it will stay this way, but I know I have to deliver when called upon, in whatever role I'm given."
This year, Safuwan has played off the main striker, and even up front at times, for Malaysian Super League side PDRM.
He has scored eight goals in all competitions for "The Cops", who have surpassed expectations in the Malaysia Cup by reaching the semi-finals.
Four of his six goals in a Lions jersey have come over the last 16 months.
He bagged a brace against Cambodia and one against Syria last year, and also scored against Bahrain last month.
Amri, 31, is hopeful the partnership can fire Singapore at the Suzuki Cup.
"If he can continue the form he has shown with PDRM, I think we can do well," said the striker, who has scored 31 goals from 106 caps.
"When I play alongside him, the main thing is I have to be prepared to get into the right positions.
"If there's an aerial ball, he's going to win it. So I have to anticipate."
Safuwan is confident the pair can dovetail well.
"He's the type of player who is good at holding up the ball," he said.
"So it's up to me and the other midfielders to make penetrating runs into the attacking third when he has the ball."
The two stars certainly looked at ease in training yesterday, linking up well in attacking drills, and joking with each other.
National coach V Sundramoorthy was coy when asked about what Safuwan would bring to the team in an advanced role.
He said: "Safuwan is a utility player who can play in defence and attack.
"He's a key player for us and he's capable of getting goals. I believe that his influence will help us do well."
Causeway Challenge live on Eleven
Eleven Sports Network will broadcast the Causeway Challenge football match between Singapore and Malaysia live on Friday from 8pm.
The arch-rivals will face off at the National Stadium for the first time in two years and fans who are unable to get tickets to the match will be able to watch it in full HD live on elevensports.sg.
Viewers will enjoy expert commentary by John Wilkinson and a special studio show hosted by Eleven Sports Network's resident presenter Richard Lenton.
They will be accompanied by former national goalkeeper Lionel Lewis and Geylang International captain, Isa Halim, who will provide detailed analysis of the action.
In addition to being available on elevensports.sg, viewers will also be able to catch the action on channel Eleven on Toggle, StarHub GO! and Singtel TV.
Support the Lions
Causeway Challenge 2016
Singapore v Malaysia
Adult: $28 (Category 1), $18 (Category 2); Concession: (students aged 16 and below, and senior citizens aged 60 and above): $16 (Category 1), $8 (Category 2)
HOW TO BUY: