Football: Khairul Amri aims not to fluff lines on centre stage against Afghanistan

Khairul Amri, who will earn his 102nd Singapore cap tonight, will be honoured with a golden boot by the Football Association of Singapore and the Lions' apparel sponsor Nike.
Khairul Amri, who will earn his 102nd Singapore cap tonight, will be honoured with a golden boot by the Football Association of Singapore and the Lions' apparel sponsor Nike. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Lions' main striker wants to make up for misses in previous qualifier against Syria

After waiting in the wings for almost a decade, Khairul Amri is now front and centre of the Singapore national football team's game plan - as the main striker.

And just like scoring opportunities that appear for a fleeting moment, the 30-year-old wants to seize his chance and become a mainstay for the Lions.

The hit-man will start as the centre-forward in a 4-2-3-1 system in the Group E World Cup qualifier against Afghanistan at the National Stadium tonight.

"It feels good to finally get my place after waiting for so long. I had been in and out of position, in and out of the team," Amri told The Straits Times. "I feel more responsibility resting on me now. This is a position that I've always preferred.

"I get to make runs, make passes and score goals."

Since his international debut in 2004, the LionsXII player had always played on the wings or in a supporting role behind a string of strikers, from Indra Sahdan to Noh Alam Shah to Aleksandar Duric before current coach Bernd Stange made him his first choice.

National assistant coach Fandi Ahmad gave the Singapore No. 19 his personal stamp of approval, saying: "Amri is the best striker that we have now. He is very clinical, he works very hard, he has good technique and he finishes well.

"I hope he is lucky against Afghanistan because he was unlucky against Syria. It is also important that he gets good supply.

"His burden is heavy and he needs support. We cannot depend totally on Amri or he will suffer."

Amri has repaid the coaching staff's faith in him - 14 of his 28 international goals have come since Stange took charge in 2013.

He also scored the first goal of Stange's tenure - in a 2-0 friendly win over Myanmar - and has the distinction as the first Lion to score at the new National Stadium when he bulged the net in a 2-1 defeat by Thailand in last November's Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup.

But in the last World Cup qualifier against Syria, he missed four good chances in a 1-0 defeat.

"A lot of misses..." he lamented. "I am still haunted by that. I told myself that we didn't win because of those chances that I missed.

"It made it hard and tough for us.

"We are now left with four home games against opponents who are not easy. I can only hope that those missed chances will not affect us."

Amri will earn his 102nd cap tonight and the Football Association of Singapore and the Lions' apparel sponsor Nike will honour him with a golden boot before kick-off. He is the 12th player to make a century of appearances for the country.

"I feel appreciated and I'm thankful (to receive the honour). It's amazing that I've managed to get more than 100 caps despite all my injuries," he said, beaming.

"I'm looking to score against Afghanistan and make amends."

SINGAPORE V AFGHANISTAN

Singtel TV Ch109, 7.30pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2015, with the headline 'Amri aims not to fluff lines on centre stage'. Print Edition | Subscribe