Shaiful hopes to play for Lions ahead of Tampines' title-decider on Saturday
Left back hopes he won't be left out tonight due to his club's title decider on Saturday
SINGAPORE v SYRIA
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Singtel TV Ch 109)
At his best, Shaiful Esah's left foot is a weapon that can make life extremely uncomfortable for opposing defences, either with his vicious swinging crosses or with a dead ball.
But the left back may be left out of Singapore's starting 11 against Syria in tonight's vital World Cup/Asian Cup qualifier as his club Tampines Rovers have a huge match coming up.
The 29-year-old defender believes he was an unused substitute in the 3-0 defeat by Japan last Thursday because there was a must-win game for title-chasing Tampines against Albirex Niigata in the S.League the following day.
The league match was scheduled during the international break as it was one of 11 games affected by the haze, and the S.League is to finish the season on Saturday.
Shaiful played the full 90 minutes to help Tampines win 1-0 and keep their title hopes alive.
To lift their sixth league crown, the Stags must beat Harimau Muda on Saturday and hope leaders Brunei DPMM trip up against Balestier Khalsa.
The Football Association of Singapore had said two weeks ago that all clubs had agreed to release their players for the current duration of international football.
While national football coach Bernd Stange did not reveal his lineup yesterday, Shaiful is unsure if he will be left out due to club commitments, although in this case, there are still four days to recover.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, he said: "Of course, I'm happy that my team are fighting for the league title but missing a national team game sucks, because for me, the country comes first.
"I didn't play against Japan because I think Albirex was a must-win for Tampines.
"And now, against Syria, I may not be playing again, which is disappointing because I want to play for my country."
If Shaiful does miss out, winger Faris Ramli believes there are others who can step up and create goal-scoring chances, even if they need to come from dead balls.
The 23-year-old, who provided the assist for Khairul Amri's winner against Afghanistan via a corner kick and scored the opener in the 2-1 win over Cambodia, said: "We know the stakes and everyone has been giving his best in training to prove he deserves to play in this game.
"At the same time, we know our game is based on teamwork and we can be strong in set-pieces with players like Shaiful, Zulfahmi (Arifin), Izzdin (Shafiq), who have good deliveries, and players like Baihakki (Khaizan), Madhu (Mohana), Safuwan (Baharudin) and Hariss (Harun) who have good headers.
"For example, we struggled against Afghanistan, but we got a goal through a set-piece when Amri scored off my corner."
The Lions are also hoping to put up a good performance for the fans, something that has not happened in their six games at the new National Stadium, except for a superb first half when they went 3-0 up against Myanmar in last year's Suzuki Cup.
Said star midfielder Safuwan: "I have realised the difference in our quality of play at home and away, and it's a stark contrast to the LionsXII's unbeaten run at Jalan Besar.
"We don't train week-in, week-out here at the National Stadium, so we need time to adapt.
"But playing at the Sports Hub will always be an honour because we are representing our country in front of our countrymen and fans.
"This game is going to be tough, but our objective remains the same - three points and qualify for the next round of the Asian Cup qualifiers.
"We want to see how far we can go in this campaign and how we cope against strong teams like Japan and those from the Middle East.
"Hopefully, with the fans' support, we can deliver a good game."
- SINGAPORE PROBABLE LINE-UP: Izwan Mahbud, Nazrul Ahmad Nazari, Madhu Mohana, Baihakki Khaizan, Shakir Hamzah, Faris Ramli, Izzdin Shafiq, Hariss Harun, Safuwan Baharudin, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Fazrul Nawaz
Stange's sons were in Stade de France during the Paris attacks
While the terrorist attacks outside the Stade de France during the France-Germany friendly stunned everyone, Singapore coach Bernd Stange had his share of anxious moments, too.
The 67-year-old German revealed that he had a harrowing time as his sons were in the stadium watching the game last Saturday morning (Singapore time).
At yesterday's press conference ahead of tonight's World Cup/Asian Cup Group E qualifier against Syria, Stange revealed: "I was personally involved. My two sons Martin and Michael were in the stadium watching France play Germany when the attacks happened."
It was reported in the Wall Street Journal that a suicide bomber was discovered wearing an explosives vest when he was frisked at the entrance to the Stade de France about 15 minutes into the game.
While attempting to back away from security, the attacker detonated the vest, which was loaded with explosives and bolts.
Around three minutes later, a second person blew himself up outside the stadium, while a third detonated explosives at a nearby McDonald's, as one civilian died in the attacks.
A day before the game, the Germany team and all other guests had been evacuated from their hotel in western Paris, following a bomb scare. They eventually returned after police, who came with sniffer dogs, cleared the hotel of threats.
Stange said: "I called Olivier Bierhoff to prepare two tickets in the hotel.
"They (Martin and Michael) could not even get the tickets from the hotel at the first moment because it was closed.
"At 5pm, they got the tickets and they got to the stadium.
"After the attacks, they woke me up at night. In the middle of this trouble, they are walking 11km back after the match and reached the hotel at 4am."
The Stade de France was the arena where Stange made a name for himself as Belarus coach, when they opened their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign by beating the hosts 1-0.
But, this time, the German tactician could talk only about the shock he felt over the events.
He said: "My family and wife were all very nervous. I had good memories in this stadium but on Saturday, football was second on my mind.
"I forgot everything else and I was happy that my sons are safe and managed to get out of France safely."
"My family and wife were all very nervous. I had good memories in this stadium but on Saturday, football was second on my mind."
- Singapore national coach Bernd Stange, on the anxiety he felt while his sons were in the Stade de France in Paris during the terrorist attacks