Wingers Faris and Quak hope to impress
Lions' flyers down the flanks set to play key role against arch-rivals
SINGAPORE v MALAYSIA
(Tomorrow, 8pm, Singtel TV Ch 109 - Eleven)
They've got speed and, at their best, are tricky to deal with.
Singapore's wingers can be a handful for opposing defenders, and national coach V Sundramoorthy is hoping they can make a difference when the Lions entertain arch-rivals Malaysia in the Causeway Challenge at the National Stadium tomorrow.
The coach, who turns 51 today, told The New Paper after yesterday's training that he was happy with his options down the flanks.
Faris Ramli, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Gabriel Quak, Iqbal Hussain and newcomer Shawal Anuar have been working hard in training over the past week, hoping to impress Sundram enough to earn the two starting berths against the Malaysians, and when the AFF Suzuki Cup rolls around next month.
Said the coach: "We've got good competition for places on the flanks.
"Hafiz and Iqbal have been playing well in the S.League, Faris has been picking himself back up from injury, and Gabriel has been in some good form recently.
"Shawal, meanwhile, was playing (amateur) football two years ago, so this call-up is a sign of how much he has progressed.
JOY TO WORK WITH
"They've all shown a lot of commitment in competing for the places, and they're a joy to work with."
Hougang United's Iqbal (two caps) and Geylang International's Shawal are still green on the international stage, but have proven their worth in the S.League.
Iqbal, 23, has scored four goals in his last eight games for the Cheetahs, while 25-year-old Shawal has notched up four goals and eight assists for the Eagles.
Versatile Tampines Rovers winger Hafiz, meanwhile, has excelled at left back and left wing for his club, as they reached the quarter-finals of the AFC Cup and final of the RHB Singapore Cup.
The two other contenders, Home United's Faris and Shawal's teammate at Geylang, Quak, are also eager to show what they can do.
Faris has emerged as a key player for Singapore over the last two years, but has had a start-stop season because of injuries.
Faris Ramli. TNP PHOTO: JEREMY LONG
The 24-year-old, who has scored four goals in 22 appearances for the Lions, has played in only 12 of Home's 21 games in the S.League games so far, owing to groin and ankle injuries.
He told TNP: "I'm not at 100 per cent yet, but I'm getting there.
"My ultimate aim is to play regularly and enjoy my game again by getting back to full fitness.
"What better platform to try and make a mark than in a Causeway Derby against Malaysia?"
For Quak, earning a spot tomorrow - and the Suzuki Cup - would cap a year of improvement.
Gabriel Quak. TNP PHOTO: JEREMY LONG
"I feel like I've been more consistent this year," said the 25-year-old, who has scored three goals in 21 games for the Eagles.
"Of course, I feel I can still do more and add more goals to my game, for example.
"You can't be completely satisfied with where you're at, if not you won't improve.
"But as long as I'm doing better, I'm making strides forward and that's a good thing.
"This is a big game for us, ahead of the Suzuki Cup, and it's a good opportunity for every player to show what they can do."
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Causeway Challenge 2016
Singapore v Malaysia
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