The case for central defence

The case for central defence
Singapore Under-23 footballer Safuwan Baharudin (No. 21).

He is part of arguably the best centre back pairing in South-east Asia.

Naturally Safuwan Baharudin would be one of the first names on Singapore Under-23s coach Aide Iskandar's team sheet as he plots his way to this year's SEA Games final in Myanmar.

In international matches and at club level, Safuwan and Baihakki Khaizan are well-respected, feared even, by forwards who find it difficult to get past the duo's defensive wall week in, week out.

Their consistent and impressive showings have earned big-money offers from across the Causeway after winning the Malaysian Super League with a league-best defence that conceded just 15 goals in 22 games.

Since he burst onto the scene in 2009, Safuwan has benefited from playing alongside the more experienced Baihakki, and has come into his own as an uncompromising defender himself.

STEP UP

With the 29-year-old Baihakki ineligible for the SEA Games football tournament, an under-23 competition, this is the time for Safuwan to step up to the plate and lead the defence.

Both coach and player agreed, and Safuwan, 22, told The New Paper: "It may feel a bit awkward to be one of the leaders in the team at first.

"But I have learnt from the senior players for a few years and now, it is my turn to start taking responsibility and I think I'm up for the challenge to step up and lead the defence in the absence of senior players like Baihakki.

"This will be my third SEA Games. Most of us have played together since we won the bronze in 2009 and, knowing that this is our last SEA Games, we want to end it on a high and win something big."

And Aide is hoping that along with other teammates with similar experience at international level, Safuwan will be one of the Young Lions' key pillars in the upcoming SEA Games campaign.

The 38-year-old, who is also Courts Young Lions coach and national assistant coach, told TNP: "Safuwan has matured over the years and has gone on to be a key player for the national team and LionsXII.

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