The Plan B

The Plan B
Coach Aide Iskandar.

Singapore Under-23s coach Aide Iskandar feels he has a good headache in central defence, and why not, since he has a wide range of options in that position.

Besides Safuwan Baharudin and Afiq Yunos - whom many feel are the first-choice centre backs for the Young Lions - two other players have caught the eye after a solid season with the LionsXII, as well as fine performances in international friendlies.

By trade, Shakir Hamzah and Madhu Mohana are a left back and a right back respectively.

But, when the need arose, both have filled in capably this year.

With the LionsXII, Shakir was the first player V Sundramoorthy turned to when Safuwan or Baihakki Khaizan was injured or suspended, and his strong performance in the first league game of the season against ATM FA and their top scorer Marlon James won many plaudits.

Turning 21 today, Shakir, who is set to play his first SEA Games, told The New Paper: "My best position is at left back but, whichever position I'm selected for, I just give my best.

"I have a good understanding with Safuwan because he plays on the left side of central defence and we work together often.

"If I'm picked to play alongside Safuwan as a centre back, I think I can offer good cover to the left back and central midfielder with my speed and by dealing with the high balls."

While Shakir is known for his all-action style, Madhu has been recognised for keeping things simple.

Although the Singapore Under-23s finished third out of four teams at the Merdeka Cup last month, the 22-year-old was singled out by Sundram as the team's stand-out player even as he excelled as a centre back while Afiq was suspended.

His effective performances also earned a senior national team call-up and his first two caps against Laos and Syria earlier this month.

Aide said of Shakir and Madhu: "Shakir's aggression and pace are assets, Madhu is strong in the air and plays simple football on the ground.

"Both of them are no-nonsense players who also have good long throws.

"They are realistic options as well because we also have Hafiz (Abu Sujad) who can play left back, and Faritz (Abdul Hameed) at right back if we require either Shakir or Madhu as a centre back.

"There is more than a month to go and it is good that there is stiff competition for a place in the squad and in the first team.

"Depending on who we get in our group, it is up to the coaching team to decide who is most suitable to play in each position."


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