Singapore Football

Three mane Lions

The trio who hold the key to Singapore’s fortunes

SHAHRIL ISHAK

Drifting across the park with his arms hanging loosely by his side, Shahril Ishak has taken a Muhammad Ali boxing cliche out of the ring, and turned it into a fully functioning weapon on the football field. 

He does indeed float like a butterfly, but beware the languid style of the Singapore skipper.

His sting will hit where it hurts. 

The 30-year-old has an eye for a pass, and the delicate touch to execute it to perfection. 

He has been deployed at the head of the spear, and even in wide areas in the past, but national coach Bernd Stange seems to prefer playing his skipper just behind the front-line.

There, he has been most effective, finding space for himself and bringing teammates into the game. 

With an uncanny ability to draw fouls, Shahril's guile will earn the free-kicks which Singapore are traditionally good at. 

Add to that his new-found willingness to get stuck in the tackle, and it becomes apparent that the 2012 Suzuki Cup Most Valuable Player is poised to star again for the Lions.

HARISS HARUN

Bernd Stange has gone with experience in his backline, and coaxed a spring into the step of those going forward.

But the German has yet to find that elusive balance in the Lions' engine room.

That is why an injury-free Hariss Harun will be critical to the team if they are to survive the tough route to the Suzuki Cup semi-finals. 

Stange has not called up midfield hardman and LionsXII captain Isa Halim.

Take out Hariss (above) and utility man Hafiz Abu Sujad, and he is left with midfielders more suited to crafting moves than breaking down those of the opposition. 

Hariss' grit and willingness to throw his body on the line for his team will take on greater importance, as he's the only real shield in front of the Lions' back four.

This will be the platform on which Shahril Ishak and Co. launch their search for goals. 

FARIS RAMLI 

Armed with a bagful of magic dust, Faris Ramli is a tricksy provocateur who can bend opposition defenders this way and that, before leaving them on their backsides and zipping 
goal-wards. 

The 22-year-old (above) is a classic winger who can throw a spanner in the works of the most organised backline, as the LionsXII man had shown in this year's Malaysian Super League.

He is the man to create space for the likes of Shahril Ishak and Khairul Amri to do some damage. 

His speed will likely be the first outlet in any Singapore counter-attack, a tool that will be especially useful against the Thais and Malaysians. 

With Gabriel Quak and Shahfiq Ghani yet to hit full throttle, and Amri and Shahril more effective down the middle, Faris' role in the flanks will be key to preventing the Lions from being a one-dimensional team.