Defender Baihakki Khaizan recalled for Lions' World Cup qualifiers
Lions coach Yoshida impressed by level and consistency of veteran's play
He called time on his international career barely six months ago, but Baihakki Khaizan could not resist the lure of donning the national kit again.
That is why the 35-year-old defender had no hesitation in accepting a recall by Lions coach Tatsuma Yoshida, as the Japanese tactician prepares his side for two World Cup qualification matches next month.
Baihakki, who has 134 caps, is the most experienced player in Yoshida's 23-man squad for home games against Group D rivals Yemen (Sept 5) and Palestine (Sept 10).
The veteran centre-back, who plays for Trat FC in Thailand's top tier, said that a visit by Yoshida late last month convinced him to return. Yoshida travelled to the Thai coastal province to catch Trat's home game against title-chasing Port FC, which they lost 2-1.
Said Baihakki: "When (Yoshida) brought up wanting me back in the national team, immediately the memories of my previous call- ups and giving my all for the team, hit me.
"It was like I was brought back to that mindset at the snap of a finger. I may not be the greatest player but, if my country needs me, I'm ready.
"I did not even think about whether I was going back on my (retirement decision) or anything like that."
Baihakki has played 21 of Trat's 25 league games this season, helping the promoted team climb to seventh in the 16-team league with just five games left.
Also, he scored twice, once in the 4-0 win over Chiangmai in April and another, an injury-time winner, in a 3-2 triumph over PT Prachuap in May.
Yoshida, who was appointed Lions coach in May, said he was impressed by the level and consistency of Baihakki's performances, having watched videos of Trat's games over "three or four months".
Said the coach: "When we met, I told him he still has the quality and the opportunity to play in the national team.
"But, if he does not have the motivation to play for the national team any more, then I said we would not involve him.
"He said he was motivated, and so we spoke about his (role) in the squad and how he has to earn his position in the starting XI. There are no promises, because there is always competition in our squad."
There are four uncapped players in Yoshida's squad: goalkeeper Zharfan Rohaizad, defender Darren Teh, midfielder Hami Syahin, and forward Hazzuwan Halim.
Yoshida made his final decision after assessing local-based players across four training sessions this month.
He is eager to claim wins in the Lions' first two qualification matches. This is despite Singapore's world ranking of 162 being lowest in Group D.
Yemen are 142nd, while Palestine are 102nd. Saudi Arabia (68th) and Uzbekistan (84th) are the other teams in the group.
Only the top two teams from each of the eight groups progress to the third round of World Cup qualifiers.
Yoshida vowed his side would not adopt a defeatist mentality. The Lions have played two friendly games, a 4-3 win over the Solomon Islands, followed by a 2-1 defeat by Myanmar.
He said: "All the preparation we have done is for the three points. We have to try and win."
Goalkeepers: Hassan Sunny, Izwan Mahbud, Zharfan Rohaizad
Defenders: Amirul Adli, Baihakki Khaizan, Darren Teh, Irfan Fandi, Irwan Shah, Nazrul Nazari, Safuwan Baharudin, Shakir Hamzah, Zulqarnaen Suzliman
Midfielders: Hami Syahin, Hariss Harun, Shahdan Sulaiman, Yasir Hanapi
Forwards: Faris Ramli, Gabriel Quak, Hafiz Nor, Hazzuwan Halim, Ikhsan Fandi, Khairul Amri, Shawal Anuar