Five is Shahfiq’s number

Singapore national Under-23 striker Shahfiq Ghani heading a ball during a training session.

Singapore Under-23 striker Shahfiq Ghani has laid down his goal target for the South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Myanmar next month.

Five goals is what he wants.

It was a number Shahfiq set five months ago, when he was on a hot streak for the LionsXII in the Malaysian Super League (MSL).

"A reporter asked me at the time what my target for the SEA Games was and I said five goals," explained Shahfiq, after a 90-minute training session at the Geylang field yesterday.

Then, the 21-year-old had reason to be optimistic.

He had just netted his fourth goal in the MSL - a rasping 35-metre free-kick against Perak which salvaged a point for the Singapore side en route to their title success.

Shahfiq fired in six goals for the LionsXII this year in all competitions, finishing as the team's joint second-highest scorer behind Shahril Ishak.

With the U-23s short of strikers, he will shoulder an even bigger task at the SEA Games. "I'm still confident of hitting my target," Shahfiq said.

"In order for us to win the gold medal, we need to score and I need to score. If I get one goal early in the group stages, I'll be on the right track from there."

Singapore have been drawn in Group A alongside Laos, Vietnam, Brunei and two-time defending champions Malaysia.

They play the Philippines U-23s in a friendly on Sunday before leaving for Myanmar next Tuesday.

Aide's men will open their campaign against Laos on Dec 8 in the Myanmar capital, Naypyidaw.

The 1.71-metre tall Shahfiq admitted to feeling some pressure of late, especially when much of the focus has been on the team's inability to score.

COMPOSED

"We're getting better in terms of our build-up play. The problem is just getting the ball in the net. We have to be patient and composed and we will start scoring," he said.

Winger Faris Ramli has been a teammate of Shahfiq for the last five years and he has faith in his friend.

The 21-year-old said: "The Merdeka Cup (in Sept) is a good example. Shahfiq didn't play in the group stage, but when he came into the side for the third-and-fourth play-off, he scored and we won.

"He's an intelligent player; very easy to play with because he links up well with everyone.

"I would be surprised if he didn't score at the SEA Games. Honestly, once he improves his stamina, he will solve Singapore's striking problem."

There was some good news for coach Aide Iskandar yesterday.

Fazli Ayob and Syafiq Zainal, who were diagnosed with dengue earlier this week, have recovered and should return to full training today.

Defender Al-Qaasimy Rahman, who was also down with the illness, is still ruled out.

Winger Gabriel Quak also received a boost after a scan on his torn hamstring yesterday.

The 22-year-old is not cleared to train fully, but was told by the doctor that tear is healing well.

"I'm moving into the next phase of recovery as the tear is closing up... I should be able to do more than just jogging by the weekend," Quak said.

aakasim@sph.com.sg


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