Afghanistan take on Singapore in an international friendly at the Al-Wakrah Stadium in Qatar on Thursday, which will also serve as warm-up for the latter, ahead of their AFC Asian Cup 2019 Qualifiers, starting 28 March against Bahrain.
The visitors are in Qatar for their first clash on 2017 and they will be hoping to set things right after having a woeful year in 2017, in which they lost eight of their 13 games, including a 2-1 defeat to Afghanistan last March. Afghanistan have also had their shares of problems last year as they only played six games but new coach Otto Pfister, who came on board in February, will be hoping for a positive result in his first international assignment.
Having sealed a two-year contract extension, Lions' coach V Sundramoorthy would want to repay the faith Football Association of Singapore has shown in him and a solid performance at the AFC Asian Cup will be a step in the right direction. The 51-year-old tactician will be hoping to prove his doubters wrong, especially after his unit's woeful performance at last year's AFF Suzuki Cup.
With more time in his hand, Sundram is expected to be more innovative unlike the way he was last year and the former international has reportedly hinted there will be surprises in the playing XI for today's clash. With skipper Shahril Ishak and Hafiz Abu Sujad out of action due to injuries, the onus will be on Hariss Harun, who has missed four months of competitive action, to lead the team to victory.
On the other hand, Sundram, according to The New Paper, is expected to field replace centre backs - Tampines Rovers' pair of Daniel Bennett and Madhu Mohana with 19-year-old Irfan Fandi and Safuwan Baharudin.
Apart from their defensive discipline against a strong Afghanistan team, which has several overseas talents, Singapore must find ways to get the goals, which were a rarity last year, and the likes of Khairul Amri, who has had a solid start to the season with the Stags, will be crucial to the team's chances.
Possible XI: Azizi; Amin, Alikhil, Hashimi, Z Amiri, Jamali, N Amiri, Shirdel, Taher, Saighani, Amani
Possible Xi: Sunny, Hamzah, Safuwan, Fandi, Jantan; Ramli, Izzdin, Harun, Hanapi; Amri, Nizam