Sundram goes for experience
National coach V Sundramoorthy and his technical team have opted for experience in their bid for a record fifth Suzuki Cup title, as they made further cuts to reduce their squad to 24 men.
Goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam, defender Irfan Fandi Ahmad, and forwards Shawal Anuar and Iqbal Hussain Hamid - who combine for six caps - were told yesterday that they do not have to check into Amara Hotel ahead of tomorrow's final build-up friendly against Cambodia at Bishan Stadium.
This means that unless there are any late injuries, the quartet will not be on the plane to Manila for the Suzuki Cup, which kicks off next Saturday.
One more player will be dropped to form the final 23-man squad.
The move to omit three-cap Hougang United forward Iqbal raises eyebrows at a time when the Lions, who are on a six-match winless streak and a 233-minute goal drought, are struggling to score goals.
The 23-year-old was a bright spark for the Cheetahs in the S.League with his pace, creativity and goals, having played 18 games despite National Service commitments and scoring four times, earning an S.League Goal of the Year nomination as well.
However, with Khairul Amri firmly established as the No. 1 striker, the return of Geylang International forward Shahfiq Ghani from a knee injury is believed to have played a part in Iqbal's exclusion.
The 24-year-old has two goals in 12 caps and netted twice in the Lions' recent Qatar training tour.
A despondent Iqbal, who was also dropped from last year's South-east Asia Games squad at the 11th hour, told The New Paper: "It's not easy facing the same situation twice.
"It feels like all my hard work went down the drain again and it's sad to go through this again and see the chance to play for my country slip away again.
"The thought of hanging up my boots for good is there, but I have to consider the positives of football, too.
"I'm encouraged by the support from my family, (Hougang teammate) M Anumanthan, my friends, Hougang United and the fans.
"Still, I wish Singapore all the best for the Suzuki Cup and hope that they can bring the trophy back home."
Goalkeepers: Hassan Sunny, Izwan Mahbud, Syazwan Buhari
Defenders: Baihakki Khaizan, Daniel Bennett, Juma’at Jantan, Madhu Mohana, Afiq Yunos, Faritz Abdul Hameed, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Shakir Hamzah, Mustafic Fahrudin
Midfielders: Hariss Harun, Faris Ramil, Shahril Ishak, Izzdin Shafiq, Safuwan Baharudin, Yasir Hanapi, Gabriel Quak, Shahdan Sulaiman, M Anumanthan
Forwards: Sahil Suhaim , Khairul Amri, Shahfiq Ghani
* One more player to be axed for final 23-man squad.