Fandi Ahmad has finalised about 17 players for Singapore’s AFF squad

Kelvin Leong

Fandi Ahmad revealed that he has already decided on about 17 names for the final 23-man squad for the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup.

The Lions are set to face Mongolia in Fandi’s third international game as head coach and the Young Lions tactician called up 29 players for this game, along with the away fixture against Cambodia in Phnom Penh on October 16.

New faces like Huzaifah Aziz, Fadli Kamis and Adam Swandi will be given the opportunity to fight for a spot on the flight to Osaka, Japan where Singapore will be heading to for a two-week training camp after the Cambodia game.

Having been drawn into Group B, labeled as the ‘Group of Death’ comprising reigning champions Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Timor-Leste, Singapore are considered underdogs against their regional rivals.

Fandi said that he has already decided on “about 17 players” when asked if he has started to narrow down his list for the final 23-man squad, but has not ruled out making changes depending on how the team performs against Mongolia and Cambodia.

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“We are giving opportunities to players who have done well in previous years and also in the (Singapore Premier) League. We will be giving them opportunities in these two matches,” Fandi said at the pre-match news conference for the Mongolia game.

“We might bring extra players to Japan due to injuries and recovering players but I think we have extra players in every department so with that, we can see what we can do at this level.”

With the emphasis on instilling tactical discipline and finding the right player for the playmaking role in his starting lineup, Fandi explained Shahdan Sulaiman – one of the options in the No.10 role – is still in contention albeit missing on out the October matches, but the same cannot be said for Matsumoto Yamaga defender Anders Aplin.

“They (players not called up for the October friendlies) are still on the list. Take Anders for instance. He hasn’t played any competitive games (in Japan) and we know he has been there for the last two months but playing for the reserves,” Fandi explained.

“Other than that, I’m not sure about his training and performance but of course, being in Japan is fantastic but if he doesn’t play in any competitive games, it is difficult to call him up.

“As for Shahdan, we gave him chances (in September) and he has a hamstring injury but we haven’t ruled anybody out yet. We didn’t call him up because we already have 29 players in our list for these two games.”

The 56-year-old tactician also promised that while critics have written off Singapore’s chances of winning a fifth Suzuki Cup title, the Lions will go into battle and fight till the very end.

“It is a bit strange because the region knows us (Singapore) as having foreign (naturalised) players before,” said Fandi when asked about the other Group B teams’ decision to bring in foreign-born players.

“You can see Indonesia, even with a 200-million population, they still have import players like Beto Goncalves and (Esteban) Vizcarra. They (Beto and Vizcarra) have been there (in Indonesia) for maybe eight to ten years and it is the same for us.

“Everybody going in (to the tournament) whether foreign or not, the important thing is us. (To focus) on our own team.

“They may look down on us and think we are very weak but we will surprise them. We will surprise them. That’s a promise we can make.”

Singapore kick off their Suzuki Cup campaign with a home game on November 9 against Indonesia at Kallang before heading to Bacolod four days later to take on Philippines. They return to home soil for their third group game against Timor-Leste on November 21 before rounding it up with a tough away fixture against Thailand at the Rajamangala Stadium on November 25.