In-form Faris up to his biggest task
In-form winger ready to perform in biggest match of his career
He notched up a goal and an assist in his last two matches for Singapore.
Lions winger Faris Ramli is determined to make a mark if he gets to start in what will be the biggest match of his burgeoning career.
The 23-year-old has played against world-class players from the likes of Italian champions Juventus and English giants Arsenal in the last 14 months, but those were friendlies which carried little meaning.
Now, the LionsXII star is in line to earn his 20th cap and start in Singapore's World Cup qualifier against Japan at the National Stadium tomorrow.
The tricky winger missed the reverse fixture in June, when the Lions escaped with a headline-grabbing 0-0 draw in Saitama, because of his participation in the SEA Games for the national Under-23 side.
Eager to make up for lost time, Faris insists he can put his fancy footwork on the backburner and help his team to hopefully pull off another miracle and deny the Asian powerhouses a win.
"It will be my biggest game so far," he told The New Paper yesterday.
"Everyone knows what I am capable of and what I like to do best.
"But I know games against teams like Japan are different. You get different instructions and the team play with different tactics.
"I'll have to switch my mindset to defensive mode but, at the same time, I want to try create chances for the team.
"At the end of the day, I know I have to be prepared to defend as much as possible and run my socks off.
"I'm up to the task."
Faris was a rare bright spot for the Lions in their last two qualifying matches last month, when Bernd Stange's men won despite below-par performances.
He was thrown into the action at half-time against Afghanistan on Oct 8, and duly won and delivered the corner kick from which Khairul Amri scored the only goal of the match.
Five days later, Faris was at the right place to stab home the first goal in a 2-1 win over regional minnows Cambodia. It was his third international goal.
Faris, who had been struggling since the SEA Games to reproduce the form that earned him offers from clubs abroad late last year, said: "The game against Afghanistan was my turning point.
"I've proven some critics wrong, and it's now time to step up in these next two games as well.
"Coach Fandi (Ahmad, Stange's assistant who is also LionsXII coach) has also spoken to me and told me he's happy with my performances.
"He feels I'm getting back to my best form, so I hope I can just keep doing what I do best.
"I'll focus and listen to the coaches' instructions, and hope I can keep my momentum going.
"I know there's a chance I might not start; the coach might have a last-minute change in terms of tactics.
"But, as far as the team are concerned, everybody needs to be on his toes as we approach this match.
"We know what Japan are about and every player has to be ready."
- SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ