Suzuki Cup: Amri's dressed for succes

Suzuki Cup: Amri's dressed for succes
Khairul Amri.

Somewhere in his wardrobe are three old Singapore jerseys - crumpled, dusty, torn in some places. But to Khairul Amri, at least, they are priceless.

It was in these shirts that he scored in each of the last three ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Cup finals Singapore won in 2004, 2007 and 2012. He remains the only player to achieve this feat.

He told The Straits Times: "The jerseys are very special to me. I take them out once a year to iron them, feel them, and think about the memories of each final.

"Hopefully I can add a fourth one this year."

Judging from his recent form, the forward looks set to plunder the goals this year. He is the team's most in-form attacker, with three strikes (one each against Macau, Laos and Cambodia) in the last four matches.

Yet, despite his hot streak, he will likely start on the flanks when the Lions start their title defence against Thailand on Sunday.

In the last two friendly wins, over Laos and Cambodia, the LionsXII man played on the left of an attacking trident, with Sahil Suhaimi in the middle and Faris Ramli on the right.

But he is comfortable with his new role: "I played on the flanks early on in my career, so it's not a problem.

"I am still given the freedom to get in the box to score goals, and that is what I will do every match. It's all about being in the right place at the right time."

With the defence particularly porous this year, conceding 15 goals in nine matches, the Lions need Amri to be at his best.

For a man who appears to have put behind his chronic injury problems - from broken metatarsals in both feet, a torn left anterior cruciate ligament to torn hamstrings - he is ready to deliver.

"I'm ready. Once I'm on the pitch I'm focused," he said. "I always try to think one step ahead of the defender.

"My first touch is important. I know once I control the ball where I want it, everything will flow naturally."

Fellow attacker Sahil is already tapping on his experience. The 22-year-old said: "I'm always learning from him. He has very good movement and draws defenders away from me.

"We also have a very good understanding, and we try to play one-twos with each other."

Captain Shahril Ishak, who operates behind the front three, hailed Amri's form.

"We've played with each other for years, and I know what kind of through ball he likes," he said. "There's a high chance he will score if he gets an opening. It's very good for the team's confidence to have someone like him."

On this form, facing favourites Thailand at the 55,000-seater National Stadium does not faze Amri. He said: "The crowd never gets to me. You can put 100,000 away fans screaming for blood in the stadium but, as long as I'm on the pitch, it doesn't get to me."

The three Lions jerseys in his wardrobe say it all about his big-match temperament.

siangyee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Nov 21, 2014.
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