Shaiful, Ismadi to stop Thai wingers
One has experienced the high of lifting the AFF Suzuki Cup, the other is a late bloomer who's facing the biggest game of his life.
Singapore fullbacks Shaiful Esah and Ismadi Mukhtar are set for an almighty battle, when the Lions host Thailand in a Suzuki Cup Group B clash at the National Stadium tomorrow.
The game will kick off Singapore's defence of the Asean title they won a record fourth time two years ago.
Both Shaiful, who has 41 caps, and Ismadi, who has only four, insist they are not sweating over the prospect of taking on Thailand's notoriously quick wingers.
"I try not to focus on them," said left back Shaiful, 28, who was part of the title-winning team of 2012.
"I'm concentrating on my own performance and what I have to do.
"Anyway, it's not about stopping individuals.
"As a team, we should look to not let them get into their rhythm and play their style of football."
Ismadi, who turns 31 next month, received his first call-up only last month, ahead of two friendlies against Hong Kong and Macau.
He echoed Shaiful's comments, and said: "I'd rather just focus on our team, on our defensive set-up and what we aim to do.
"That's more important to us than worrying about our opponents, or talking about mistakes in recent games."
The two Tampines Rovers stars face competition for their places in the Lions starting 11, but seem to be the favourites to get the nod tomorrow.
Ismadi seems to be just ahead of youngster Al-Qaasimy Abdul Rahman, 22, for the right-back berth.
Courts Young Lions' skipper Al-Qaasimy only played 35 minutes in the recent 2-0 friendly win over Laos and did not feature in the subsequent 4-2 win over Cambodia, the Lions' final tune-up before the Suzuki Cup.
Shaiful's rival for the left-back slot, 22-year-old Shakir Hamzah, is making a comeback from injury which limited him to just 20 minutes of action against Cambodia.
No doubt, national coach Bernd Stange will be looking to Shaiful to produce the magic with his vicious left foot.
The left back created the first goal against Laos with a pinpoint corner for Baihakki Khaizan to glance home, and also had a hand in Shahril Ishak's goal against Cambodia, after his free-kick struck the upright and was swept in by the Singapore captain.
Shaiful, who set up Singapore's last goal in their 3-1 win over Thailand in the first leg of the Suzuki Cup final in 2012, insists he play his normal game against the tournament favourites, bombing down the flank and whipping in those dangerous crosses.
"For sure I hope to get forward as much as I can.
"I want them to worry about us, not be worried about them."
He brushed aside any concerns that Kiatisuk Senamuang's new-look Thai team could catch them off guard.
The team will likely feature Mongkol Tossakrai on the right flank and Kroekrit Theewakarn on the left against Singapore, but both only have five caps each.
"I'm not worried," said Shaiful.
"When we went to Europe to play some European club sides (during a training tour of Austria in July), we didn't know their players, too.
"There's no point thinking about your opponents before the game.
"Anyway, Thailand is Thailand. They may have some talented individuals, but we have a strong team.
"That's how we beat them in the past, and that's what we can depend on to beat them again."
Ismadi admits he will be filled with pride when he steps out onto the National Stadium turf tomorrow, especially if he is in the starting line-up.
"Yeah, it's a new experience for me, but I'm not feeling anything other than the fact I'm really looking forward to the game as it's a big event for me.
"Then again, it doesn't matter who the opponents are or what game it is.
"It could be Thailand or any other team, I'll still give my best.
"The coach knows my strengths: I'm quick, and I can run and run. I think it'll be a good battle on Sunday night."
Shahdan Sulaiman looking good for Suzuki Cup
Khairul Amri dropped into midfield to pick the ball up, moved forward with it and then shaped to shoot.
But instead of letting rip from distance, the Lions forward instead played a slide-rule pass to a teammate making a lung-bursting run through the defence.
Shahdan Sulaiman duly took the ball in his stride, opened up his body and curled a beauty past Singapore No. 1 Hassan Sunny into goal.
It might have just been a training match at the Jurong West Stadium yesterday, but the run and the strike underlined the ability of the 26-year-old midfielder.
The Tampines Rovers star is looking forward to showing what he can do, when the Lions take on Thailand in their opening Suzuki Cup Group B clash at the National Stadium tomorrow night.
"Of course, if I can score goals like that in training, I want to do the same in matches," said Shahdan, with a grin.
"I'm expecting a tough battle in midfield against the Thais, but I won't curb my instincts... I'll play my normal game.
"Having said that, we can't just rely on Hariss (Harun) to do the dirty work in midfield. I'll make sure I'll do my part, too."
While he has not rediscovered the sterling form displayed in the first half of 2012 which saw him elevated to the first 11 of the national team, Shahdan (above) has flourished this year, particularly in the second half of the season, after Tampines signed former New Zealand international defensive midfielder Jake Butler to play alongside him.
Butler's experience and presence in the Stags' midfield liberated Shahdan and allowed him to surge forward and play at his creative best.
It is a formula Lions' midfield general Hariss hopes to replicate at international level.
The 24-year-old Johor Darul Ta'zim star said: "Shahdan has a good engine to get up and down the pitch, and I'm more than happy to do a job behind him and let him do what he does best."
Like Shahdan, Hariss is expecting a tough battle against the Thais in the centre of the park.
Thai captain and defensive midfielder Adul Lahso was part of the 2012 team that lost to the Lions in the Suzuki Cup final, and his partner Charyl Chappuis starred when the War Elephants' Under-23 side knocked Singapore out of the SEA Games last year.
Said Hariss: "Thailand will play a brand of possession-based football, and as usual with Thai teams, they're quick.
"When they lose the ball, they'll try to win it back as quickly as possible.
"They will also try to pull our players out of position with their movements, so we need to be focused and make sure we put in a collective effort and put our teamwork to good use.
"We might have to do a lot of running off the ball, which can be tiring.
"But we're up for it."