Shakir's injury a big blow for Sundram
Injured fullback to miss rest of year, Shaiful and Juma'at in line for return
He bombed up and down the wing at the Jalan Besar Stadium and stood out in what was one of the national football team's best performances in recent memory.
It was Shakir Hamzah's left-footed drive that gave Singapore the lead in that 1-1 draw in the Asian Cup Group E qualifier against Turkmenistan on Sept 5, but national coach V Sundramoorthy will have to do without the fullback for the rest of the year.
The 24-year-old has suffered a labral tear of the hip joint - at the area where the hip joins the femur - and he told The New Paper yesterday that he will be out for at least five months.
The Lions face 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar in a warm-up fixture on Oct 5 before taking on Turkmenistan in a Group E return fixture five days later, looking for another solid performance and a victory that would keep their hopes of qualification alive.
Singapore are bottom of Group E with two points after two draws and one loss, five points behind leaders Bahrain.
Turkmenistan are second on four points and Taiwan lie third on three points.
"I felt it in the Bahrain game (0-0 draw in March), but I thought it was just one of those things that would go away after you go through the recovery process, but it didn't," said Shakir, who plays for Tampines Rovers in the S.League, just hours after his operation yesterday.
"I had to get scans done and see a specialist who said I needed surgery. If not, the injury will keep recurring."
Sundram, who has yet to name his final squad for the Qatar and Turkmenistan games, admitted that he will miss the qualities that Shakir brings to the pitch.
"He's been a key player for us, and he's done really well in the last two international games, and even scored a goal, too," said Sundram yesterday.
"He will be a big miss for us with his defensive ability and his runs down the flank, but this is a chance for the rest of the players to step up.
"There were many encouraging things that came out of the Turkmenistan match, and we want to continue in the same path. Moving forward, we must think of solutions."
Sundram's charges broke away from their usual tight defensive approach and went forward to attack Turkmenistan, creating many chances with their flowing moves.
But the Lions could not eke out a win and, with just three games left, they need to score points to ensure that they finish in the top two in the group to earn a ticket to the 2019 Asian Cup Finals in the United Arab Emirates.
"Our style of play will depend on who is Shakir's replacement," said Sundram.
"If it's a like-for-like replacement, I want to continue in the way that we played in that game against Turkmenistan. We have Hafiz Sujad, Shaiful Esah, and maybe Ho Wai Loon," added the national coach, who is also considering Home United defender Juma'at Jantan.
Shaiful has been deployed in a central midfield role for his S.League club Warriors FC this season, but made his name as a left-sided player.
Juma'at plays on the right side for Home.
Shakir is confident that whoever Sundram picks as his replacement will live up to expectations.
"We played a great match against Turkmenistan, and we really should have won it," said Shakir.
"We should continue playing like we did, and I wish the team the best of luck in the upcoming games."