Sahil keen to emphasise his calibre in Syria encounter

Sahil Suhaimi at a training session yesterday. Although he is the third-choice national striker behind Khairul Amri and Fazrul Nawaz, he says he is focused on finding "opponents' weaknesses to score".
Sahil Suhaimi at a training session yesterday. Although he is the third-choice national striker behind Khairul Amri and Fazrul Nawaz, he says he is focused on finding "opponents' weaknesses to score". ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Singapore striker Sahil Suhaimi - whose skills have been likened to those of former Lions stars Fandi Ahmad and Ahmad Latiff Khamarudin - has not exactly been consistently hitting the heights befitting a player of his talent.

The spotlight fell on the 23-year-old in 2013, when he scored three goals in five matches at the SEA Games. He also led the line ably for the Under-23s at last year's Incheon Asian Games.

But an inability to start for his club the LionsXII in the Malaysia Super League has seen him fall to third choice in the national set-up, behind the clinical Khairul Amri and hard-working Fazrul Nawaz.

The 1.65m player also endured a disastrous SEA Games outing in June, missing a glut of goalscoring chances as the hosts crashed out in the group stage.

But he is itching to prove his worth - starting with the World Cup qualifier against Syria on Tuesday.

Speaking to The Straits Times yesterday after training, he said: "It's definitely a good chance (to impress), but I try not to think about the past. It's important to keep moving forward.

"As always, I'm focused on giving 100 per cent and trying to find the opponents' weaknesses to score."

LionsXII coach Fandi often bemoaned Sahil's poor work rate this season, but the diminutive player said he is working daily to improve.

The striker, who has scored six goals for the LionsXII this season, said: "I know there's a lot more for me to work on, and I try to improve as much as I can."

There are signs that the nippy forward can add to his solitary international goal, especially after putting in a decent shift in the 0-3 loss to Japan on Thursday.

He won a free kick near the halfway line after clever hold-up play. From the resulting free kick, Safuwan Baharudin headed just wide.

Sahil, who scored two goals in the Malaysian FA Cup final in May, also showcased his close control in the 73rd minute, dancing with the ball in front of Japan's back-line before finding Faris Ramli on the right.

Faris' cross was headed just wide by an unmarked Hafiz Sujad.

National coach Bernd Stange said yesterday that both Fazrul and Sahil will get a chance to play against Syria, in a match where the German said he hoped to see more attacking impetus from his team.

He added: "Against Syria, I hope to see more possession and greater confidence in (playing) attacking football.

"But we know the strength of Syria and we must be realistic in our expectations. We will attack but we cannot leave our defence open.

"The objective is to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates and on Tuesday we must show that we are closing the gap between us and the Middle East teams."

Syria are second in Group E with 12 points from five games. Singapore are third with 10 points after six games. Japan are tops on 13.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2015, with the headline 'Sahil keen to emphasise his calibre in Syria encounter'. Print Edition | Subscribe