SINGAPORE- The Lions have been dealt another blow to their preparations, less than 36 hours before the toughest tie in their World Cup qualifying campaign against Asian powerhouses Saudi Arabia.
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) on Thursday (June 10) announced that Shakir Hamzah has withdrawn from the national team's camp, citing "pressing personal commitments that require immediate attention".
Shakir, 28, is one of the Lions' key defenders and had started in their last two qualification matches - losses against Palestine (4-0) and Uzbekistan (5-0) - which were played over the last week in Saudi Arabia.
Shakir's departure means he will play no part in the match against the Saudis on Friday and he becomes the fourth key figure of the team to be ruled out.
Shakir, who joined Malaysian Super League side Perak FC at the start of the current season, had his contract mutually terminated last month.
National team Coach Tatsuma Yoshida did not mince his words and said: "I am extremely disappointed that Shakir has made this decision during a time when everyone else in the team is pulling together as one for this Friday's match.
"It is an unnecessary distraction that we will have to set aside and deal with once we have returned to Singapore. As the coach, I will focus my attention on adapting my plans for our opponents without him.
"His absence means there is an opportunity for the players who are with us to step up and fill the void, and I have every confidence that they will."