Aide shuffles pack to find aces

Choice and circumstance have combined to force SEA Games football coach Aide Iskandar's hand, and Singapore could sport a new-look attack for tonight's crucial Group A clash against Myanmar.

Forward Faris Ramli faces a late fitness test after picking up an injury to his left gluteus muscle in a 1-0 win over the Philippines on Monday, while playmaker Shahfiq Ghani is set to miss out once again owing to a knee complaint.

At the same time, Aide wants to rejig his front line after watching a flurry of gilt-edged chances go to waste against the Young Azkals at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

This means possible starts for 17-year-old Irfan Fandi, who came on after just 36 minutes for midfielder Shamil Sharif in their opening game, and speedster Suria Prakash.

Central midfielder Pravin Gunasegaran could also feature in place of thigh-injury victim Safirul Sulaiman.

"There will be a few surprises in the line-up as we want to get the goals and not be as wasteful as in the first game," Aide said yesterday.

Assistant coach S. Subramani added: "I think rotation is good because of the tight schedule we face and to keep the boys on their toes.

"For instance, when Irfan came on, he brought a different dimension up front with his physical presence and willingness to work for the team."

The principal culprit for the profligacy against the Filipinos was Sahil Suhaimi. Just a week earlier, the striker bagged a brace in the LionsXII's 3-1 Malaysian FA Cup final triumph over Kelantan.

Despite spurning at least five good opportunities in the Games opener, the 22-year-old is expected to keep his spot in the starting XI.

Aide, however, had a word of caution for both Sahil and fellow Cup winner Faris.

"You can be a hero in the FA Cup but in the SEA Games, you must keep the momentum going," said the former national captain.

"As I keep telling the boys, you are only as good as your last game."

It would make tactical sense for 1.7m-tall Sahil to partner Irfan, who towers at 1.87m, in a "big-and-small" strike force.

"Sahil and I have played together before and I think we complement each other in terms of speed and strength," said Irfan.

With Myanmar opening their campaign with a 4-2 upset of Indonesia on Tuesday, tonight's encounter could well decide who ends up topping Group A - and potentially avoid defending champions Thailand in the semi-finals.

Even with several key players missing due to their participation at the ongoing Fifa Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand, the Myanmar players impressed with their combination play and high-intensity pressing.

Coach Kyi Lwin has openly - and surprisingly - declared his team's desire to plunder a first football gold since 1973, when the country was known as Burma.

Singapore will do well to give their opponents a taste of their own medicine and deny space to the central midfield duo of Hlaing Bo Bo and Ko Oo Ye, who orchestrated proceedings against Indonesia.

They should also look to put pressure on goalkeeper Phyo Kyaw Zin, who flapped at several crosses and was unsteady in set-piece situations.

Young Lions midfielder Adam Swandi is confident of finding a way around a well-drilled Myanmar outfit stocked with pace and a dash of panache.

The 19-year-old, who recently returned from a year-long stint at Metz in France, said: "We have to adapt to how the opponents play but we should also not entirely forget our brand of football.

"If we keep the ball and move it around well, we can get another win."

This article was first published on June 04, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.