Singapore coach V Sundramoorthy has remained tight-lipped about the playing XI for the Lions' AFC Asian Cup 2019 Qualifier clash against Chinese Taipei on Saturday, but the 51-year-old dropped a hint when he replaced Tampines Rovers striker Khairul Amri with Safuwan Baharudin at the break during their friendly against Myanmar on Tuesday.
Amri now is reportedly unlikely to start for the Lions as he is suffering from appendicitis and Sundramoorthy is likely to bank on the versatile Safuwan, who has been making his mark as a striker with Malaysian second-tier side PRDM FA. The 25-year-old impressed in the second half against Myanmar, nearly netting one in the 71st minute only to be denied by the visitors' custodian Kyaw Zin Htet.
Safuwan, who started out as a defender, believes that he is more comfortable with his new role as striker and that he is ready to grab any opportunity that comes his way to represent Singapore. Notably, the utility player scored eight goals in 10 games with PRDM after choosing to stay with the Police team even after they were relegated from Super League at the end of last season.
"When it comes to the national team, my mentality has always been: Whatever (role) you hand me, I will do it. But sometimes it is tough because if I play (out of position), I wonder if I can perform as well as some other teammates who are more natural in that position" Safuwan said, as quoted by The New Paper.
"Whatever it is, I know whenever I am given a chance, I need to grab it."
"I think I feel more confident now. In my first season with PDRM [in 2016], I needed to get used to the responsibility of having to create or score goals in an advanced role. But now, it feels natural, especially after I found some scoring form."
After having held higher-ranked Bahrain in their Asian Cup qualifying campaign in March, Singapore have a good chance of making the group stages of the tournament for the first time since 1984, in which they earned an automatic spot as hosts.
Sundram said he was happy with the bench strength of the team after the way Khairul Nizam and Nazrul Nazari combined to produce the late equaliser against Myanmar. In-form Faris Ramli, who has gone on to establish himself as a key forward at Home United, will be key to Singapore's success while experienced campaigners, including Hariss Harun, Yasir Hanapi, Izzdin Shafiq and Daniel Bennett will have to step up and help the Lions get a positive result on Saturday.