Lions to gear up for Suzuki Cup with Hong Kong and Gulf tests

The Singapore national team is set to play some tough matches as part of their Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup preparations as they target a semi-final place in the biennial regional tournament.

National caretaker coach V. Sundramoorthy is firming up plans for a tour of the Gulf, playing friendlies against Bahrain and possibly Oman during the Fifa international dates from Aug 29 to Sept 6.

The Hong Kong Football Association has also confirmed Hong Kong will play the Lions at the Mongkok Stadium on Oct 11, just four days after the Lions take on Malaysia in the Causeway Challenge at the National Stadium.

The Football Association of Singapore declined comment yesterday but said an announcement on the Lions' friendlies will be made soon.

The Republic has not beaten Hong Kong in their last three meetings (two losses and a draw). Their last encounter was in Mongkok two years ago when the hosts won 2-1.

Singapore are currently ranked 159th in the world and will be tested by the higher-ranked Gulf teams (Bahrain is 126th while Oman is 107th).

Hong Kong (147th) has a good record against the Lions recently and although Malaysia are currently 167th, the intense Causeway rivalry means the form book goes out of the window.

Although Sundram will miss first-team regulars Fazrul Nawaz (torn anterior cruciate ligament) and Shahdan Sulaiman (hairline fracture on fibula) due to long-term injuries, the 50-year-old tactician is considering other players for selection.

They are Tampines Rovers duo Fahrudin Mustafic and Jufri Taha, Warriors FC winger Ridhuan Muhammad and Hougang United attacker Iqbal Hussain.

The quartet have donned national team colours before. Mustafic, who earned the last of his 79 caps in the 2012 AFF Cup victory over Thailand, said: "If there's a call-up, I'll relish the opportunity because like I've always said - it's an honour to play for the national team.

"It's the highest level of football and once you put on the jersey, you've to give 110 per cent.

"To play for Singapore, you must always stay hungry. My determination and hunger are still going strong."

Iqbal is also eager to grab his chance, saying: "I've been happy with how I've performed in my past few games which coach Sundram has watched and he's noticed me.

"My aim is to always carry on doing well and if he sees my potential, I'm going to seize any opportunity I'm given and continue to work hard."

The Lions have a tough AFF Cup assignment in November. They are drawn in Group A alongside co-hosts Philippines, defending champions Thailand and Indonesia. Myanmar are the other co-hosts.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2016, with the headline 'Lions to gear up for Suzuki Cup with Hong Kong and Gulf tests'. Print Edition | Subscribe