Football: Top striker Amri still recovering from injury, set to miss Afghan tie

Singapore striker Khairul Amri has yet to play for the Garena Young Lions in the S-League this season due to injury. He looks set to miss the national team's coming World Cup qualifier against Afghanistan, with a place in the third qualifying round f
Singapore striker Khairul Amri has yet to play for the Garena Young Lions in the S-League this season due to injury. He looks set to miss the national team's coming World Cup qualifier against Afghanistan, with a place in the third qualifying round for the 2019 Asian Cup at stake.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Lions striker still recovering from a calf injury, freeing a spot for others on the fringe

Singapore's top marksman Khairul Amri looks set to miss the Lions' final World Cup qualifier against Afghanistan on March 29.

The striker has not played in the S-League for the Garena Young Lions this season - and is set to miss a few more weeks due to a troublesome calf.

"Hopefully, I will be ready to play next month," Amri, who has netted 30 goals in 103 appearances for Singapore, told The Straits Times on Monday. "Actually, I healed about 11/2 months ago but I will be dragging my rehabilitation so as to recover fully.

"The reason why I'm still not playing is because I want to concentrate on the recovery and get that calf muscle really strong."

Having netted five goals in his last 10 appearances for the Lions, Amri could be a crucial miss, especially since his likely replacements are also struggling.

Geylang International's Sahil Suhaimi, Home United's Khairul Nizam and Tampines Rovers' Fazrul Nawaz have all started the season slowly. None has more than one S-League goal to his name. Another possible replacement, Irfan Fandi, has yet to score for Home.

TEAM WILL STEP UP IN AMRI'S ABSENCE

He's very important to us but we have many able replacements in the team. We are strong as a team and this may not be a problem for us.

FAZRUL NAWAZ, Lions striker, when asked how the Lions would cope in Amri's absence.

  • Likely replacements for Amri in attack

  • Sahil Suhaimi Geylang International Singapore will be hoping to see more flashes of brilliance from Sahil similar to his LionsXII heroics in last year's Malaysia FA Cup final, when he scored two goals.

    Fazrul Nawaz Tampines Rovers As the S-League's highest-scoring local last season with 18 goals for his then-club Warriors, he can be trusted to take over the goal-poaching duties from Amri with his wealth of experience and high work-rate.

    Khairul Nizam Home United Having scored on his debut for his new club this season, this would be the ideal opportunity for Khairul Nizam to step up and fill his elder sibling's boots.

    Irfan Fandi Home United Despite not having started a game or scoring a goal for his club this season, Irfan could be the one to provide a breath of fresh air to a Singapore attack in need of rejuvenation. He impressed with his link-up play, setting up chances in the box for the Singapore Under-23s during last year's SEA Games.

    Safuwan Baharudin PDRM A natural defender with an uncanny ability to pop up with goals, Safuwan's versatility and attacking mindset allow him to play anywhere on the pitch. He has already scored for his team in the Malaysia FA Cup this season.

    Yogaraj Panditurai

With the 2018 World Cup qualifiers also doubling up as the Asian Cup qualifiers, the match against Afghanistan could prove crucial.

Singapore are third in Group E on 10 points after seven games. Japan top the group on 16 points, with Syria one point behind.

While the Lions are already mathematically out of contention to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, if they remain third in the five-team group, they are guaranteed a place in the third round of Asian Cup qualifying.

In fact, they are well placed to qualify ahead of fourth-placed Afghanistan, who are on six points and have two games left. The Afghans face powerhouses Japan on March 24, five days before they end their campaign against the Lions.

With the Afghans unlikely to get any points against Japan, Singapore could confirm third place even before they face Afghanistan.

This could make Amri's absence less dire and also potentially give coach Bernd Stange a chance to test out new players in the central striker's role.

One contender is the uncapped Fareez Farhan of Garena Young Lions. He is currently the highest local-born scorer in the S-League, having scored two goals.

He said: "To be called up for the national team is something I'd dreamt of as a kid.

"I just want to continue to strive to improve myself as a player and one day play for the national team."

However, when Amri missed the Oct 13 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia, Stange turned to Fazrul, who came off the bench to score the winner in a 2-1 victory.

And the 30-year-old, who has nine goals in 70 appearances for Singapore, is confident the team will cope without their star man.

"We have been in this situation before; he's very important to us but we have many able replacements in the team. We are strong as a team and this may not be a problem for us," said Fazrul.

"The team have to cope (without Amri) but we know our strengths and hopefully we can get through this."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2016, with the headline 'Amri may skip Afghan tie'. Print Edition | Subscribe