Singapore Football

Veteran Bennett back in national team

Veteran defender Bennett thrilled at recall to national team

He spotted the danger early, came across the penalty box and put in a perfectly timed sliding tackle on Hiroyoshi Kamata.

The Albirex Niigata forward was completely unmarked and looked certain to score, before the intervention of Geylang International defender Daniel Bennett.

That tackle was one example of why V Sundramoorthy has recalled the 38-year-old to the national team.

Bennett might not have been able to help his team beat S.League leaders Albirex in the second leg of the RHB Singapore Cup quarter-final last night - Geylang drew 2-2 on the night to lose 4-2 on aggregate - but his performance was a reminder of just what the 124-cap veteran still has to offer.

Bennett has been overlooked by former Lions' boss Bernd Stange throughout the German's three-year stint starting in 2013, but he is relishing the chance of returning to the fray.

"It's great to be back, but it's a strange feeling. I've played over 100 times for the country, but I'm now going back into a team where I don't really know the boys. It's a fresh start and, to be honest, I feel like I'm 16 again," he told The New Paper.  

Bennett is part of a 25-man Lions squad, who will go on a four-match tour of Japan and Cambodia from July 18-28.

The national team will face the parent club of the team Bennett faced last night, an Albirex side that are plying their trade in the J-League 
(July 24). They will also meet two other as yet to be named Japanese clubs.

The team will then fly to Phnom Penh to face the Cambodia national team on July 28.

This is part of the Lions' preparation for the year-end AFF Suzuki Cup, but Bennett is just planning to enjoy himself.

"I'm just going to enjoy it. I think enjoying my football is how I got called back into the national team, and that's what I'm going to continue to do," said Bennett, who paid tribute to the supportive management of Geylang and his "talented young teammates" whom he believes have helped him enjoy football again.

And he does not even feel old.

"I'm actually only a little bit older than Aleks was when he first played for the national team," said Bennett, chuckling.

He was referring to former Singapore international Aleksandar Duric, who made his debut for Singapore aged 37 and 89 days in 2007.

Duric retired in 2012 after Singapore won the AFF Suzuki Cup, at the age of 42.

PRESSURE

"I don't feel old. It's just the body sometimes reacts like it's old. I only realise I'm older when I mingle (with younger teammates) and take photos. That's when I realise I look older than these guys," said Bennett.

"There's been a lot of pressure to take younger players into the national team, the S.League has even tried to get rid of older players - that's a fact," said Bennett, pointing to the S.League's move to restrict the number of players aged over 30 that each club could sign.

That policy was implemented at the end of 2014, but was overturned before the start of the 2015 season.  

"Looking at all that, I have to really thank Sundram for inviting me back. But, no, I don't feel like I'm flying the flag for old guys. When I'm on the field, I don't think about my age at all,"he said.

 Like Bennett, Home United's Abdil Qaiyyim last received a call-up in 2013, and he was equally pleased for what is a different kind of opportunity.

"It's an honour to get another opportunity to pull on the national team jersey. It's been three years since I last got a call-up, I have been working very hard in that time, and I'm glad it's paid off," said the 27-year-old, who has no international caps to his name yet.

"But this only means I've got one foot in the door. Every player dreams of turning out for his national team, and I know there's more work ahead of me to earn a spot in the team."

"I owe a lot to Home United, and I promise that I will give everything to do my team - and the flag - proud," added Abdil, who intends to use his experience to up his game.

Sundram, though, is keeping his focus firmly on the prize - the Suzuki Cup.

"Our time together in July will let me have a good look at players who have performed well in the S.League, and let all the selected players have a better understanding of my expectations," he said.

"At this stage of our preparations, it is essential for us to get together regularly and have high-quality matches against good opponents."

The Lions assemble for centralised training from July 11-17 before departing for Japan. 


SINGAPORE SQUAD

  • GOALKEEPERS: Izwan Mahbud (Tampines Rovers), Khairulhin Khalid (Hougang United), Syazwan Buhari (Geylang International), Zaiful Nizam (Balestier Khalsa)
  • DEFENDERS: Abdil Qaiyyim (Home United), Afiq Yunos (Tampines), Daniel Bennett (Geylang), Faritz Hameed (Geylang), Hafiz Abu Sujad (Tampines), Madhu Mohana (Warriors FC), Nazrul Nazari (Hougang), Shakir Hamzah (Tampines)
  • MIDFIELDERS: Anumanthan Mohan Kumar (Hougang), Gabriel Quak (Geylang), Hafiz Nor (Warriors), Izzdin Shafiq (Tampines), Safirul Sulaiman (Geylang), Yasir Hanapi (Tampines), Zulfahmi Arifin (Home)
  • FORWARDS: Amy Recha Pristifana (Geylang), Azhar Sairudin (Home), Fazrul Nawaz (Tampines), Khairul Amri (Garena Young Lions), Khairul Nizam (Home), Sahil Suhaimi (Geylang)

LIONS’ MATCHES

  • July 24: Albirex Niigata FC v Singapore (6pm, Singapore time, Denka Big Swan Stadium, Niigata)
  • July 28: Cambodia v Singapore (8pm, Singapore time, National Olympic Stadium, Phnom Penh)
  • Two more matches will be played against Japanese club teams while the team are in Japan. Details will be announced later.
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