Zulfahmi hopes for another chance
Refreshingly honest, Singapore midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin yesterday admitted he "did badly" in the 4-2 win over Myanmar on Wednesday.
He told The New Paper: "Defensively, I didn't do my job well, even though attacking-wise I thought I did okay."
The 23-year-old (above) had to be thrown on abruptly as a 24th-minute substitute after Shahdan Sulaiman suffered a horrific ankle break, and he was the subject of criticism after twice conceding possession that eventually led to Myanmar scoring twice in the second half.
With Shahdan's injury, Zulfahmi could get a chance to make amends tomorrow in the blockbuster Causeway Derby.
If called upon, most likely to play alongside Hariss Harun in central midfield, the LionsXII midfielder aims to put up a much better performance, even though he concedes defending is not his strong suit.
"At this level, I know I can't rely only on my attacking strengths. I have to improve on my defensive aspect, too," he said.
"I won't let the last game get me down. I'm thankful to my coaches and teammates who have been encouraging me.
"I'm motivated and mentally prepared to play against Malaysia.
"We are going for the win and we won't be sitting back."
After also coming on in Singapore's 1-2 defeat by Thailand on Sunday, Zulfahmi does look to be Singapore coach Bernd Stange's first-choice replacement for Shahdan.
But there is also the option of Hafiz Abu Sujad, who was left out of the matchday squad against Myanmar.
Central defender Baihakki Khaizan, who is suspended, said: "Malaysia's Gary Robbat is back from suspension and Safiq Rahim played well against Thailand, so it will be exciting to see Hariss and whoever he partners do battle against them."
Singapore skipper Shahril Ishak said: "Both are good players. Hafiz is more versatile because he has defensive experience playing as left back, left midfielder and central midfielder.
"Zulfahmi is a more like a playmaker who can play that defence-splitting pass."
Hariss, the star man for Singapore so far, backed Zulfahmi to bounce back.
The 24-year-old, who scored a pair of thumping volleys against Myanmar, said: "He was a young player in the 2012 winning team and now he has to prove himself, so there is definitely some pressure there.
"He has got good physique, good distribution and a good shot. I'm sure he will play to his potential, if given another chance.
"Hafiz is more aggressive and doesn't shy away from challenges. He also has a good shot, so it's good that we have capable options."
We still have a job to do against Malaysia and it is time for the team to step up to get the result we need to progress.
— Singapore midfield star Hariss Harun