Football: Korea, here we come; but what's the line-up?

Football: Korea, here we come; but what's the line-up?

The Singapore football squad for this month's Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, leave tomorrow.

But the final 20-man squad for the Under-23 tournament has yet to be decided by the Football Association of Singapore.

"What to do?" was the resigned answer Aide Iskandar gave when asked about the troubles the team have faced in their attempts to get their desired players for the Under-23 tournament.

Central to the mess is Malaysian side Johor Darul Ta'zim's (JDT) reluctance to release midfield lynchpin Hariss Harun as Singapore's third permitted overaged player for the Asiad, as they want him for the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals.

Even though JDT play their final-eight clash against Terengganu only on Oct 4 and the Asian Games football tournament ends on Oct 2, Southern Tigers coach Bojan Hodak told TNP last week that Hariss is a key man in his team and does not want to risk any injuries to his star.

As if that doesn't present enough of a headache to Asian Games coach Bernd Stange and his assistant Aide, their choice of back-up for Hariss, midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman, is also needed by Tampines Rovers as they negotiate a two-legged Singapore Cup semi-final on Sept 22 and 25.

As the Asian Games is not a Fifa tournament, it is not compulsory for clubs to release players.

Warriors FC goalkeeper Hassan Sunny and LionsXII defender Baihakki Khaizan will take up two of Singapore's three overaged-player slots in Incheon. Both Hariss and Shahdan played the full 90 minutes of the senior national team's goalless draw with Hong Kong at the Hougang Stadium last night.

Post-game, Aide, who stood in for an ill Stange, told The New Paper: "Of course, we want to play our best team.

"But, if we can't get our choice of player, we'll have to turn to our second-best..." When TNP pointed out that in this case, it would be third-best, he smiled wryly and said: "What to do? We just have to make do.

"We might take Afiq (Yunos) or maybe even Khairul Amri, if he recovers in time."

Earlier, when facing the press, the former national skipper said that he was still "hopeful" JDT would release Hariss.

It looks increasingly likely that LionsXII defender Afiq, who turns 24 in December, will be selected to fill the final overage slot.

Striker Amri, who also plays for the LionsXII, is currently recovering from a cheekbone fracture he sustained in a Malaysia Cup clash against Felda United on Aug 13.

Afiq, a left-footed central defender, filled in at left back against Hong Kong, and could reprise the role in Incheon as the team's first-choice in the position, Shakir Hamzah, is currently struggling with a hamstring injury.

Afiq eventually grew into the role after looking shaky at the beginning.

If he travels to the Asiad, Stange and Aide can also choose to play him in his preferred central role and move the versatile centre back Safuwan Baharudin into midfield.

Singapore kick off their campaign against Tajikistan this Sunday, followed by games against Oman next Wednesday and Palestine next Sunday.

This article was first published on September 10, 2014.
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