Football: Takayuki Nishigaya names his first Lions squad; Izwan out, Kweh in

Takayuki Nishagaya has been appointed the new head coach of the Singapore national football team. PHOTO: MATSUMOTO YAMAGA FC

SINGAPORE - For his first national team call-up, new Lions coach Takayuki Nishigaya has shown he is not afraid to ring in the changes despite the scale of the assignment.

On Tuesday (May 24), the Japanese announced the 27-man squad that will travel to Abu Dhabi to play a friendly against Kuwait on June 1 before the June 8-14 Asian Cup qualifiers in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where they target a historic qualification.

While core players such as Hassan Sunny, Hariss Harun, Shahdan Sulaiman, Irfan and Ikhsan Fandi are expected to form the spine of the team, Young Lions forward Glenn Kweh, 22, has been handed a maiden call-up.

He is one of five uncapped players in the squad, which includes defenders Ryhan Stewart and Ryaan Sanizal.

Nishigaya, 49, said he based his selection on matches from the Asean Football Federation Championship, Tri-Nation Series, SEA Games and the Singapore Premier League, as well as consultation with his assistants Nazri Nasir and Koichiro Iizuka.

He added: "My objective is very clear: To go through to the AFC Asian Cup Finals. Our opponents might be stronger in terms of Fifa rankings, but I have full confidence in the team. The boys must have the belief that they can match the opponents with the aim to get positive results in all the games."

Kweh, who made his professional debut in April 2021 and impressed for the Singapore Under-23s, said: "It means everything to me because playing for the senior team has been a dream of mine.

"I aim to learn from the more experienced players. I know I have to step up as the level on the senior international stage is definitely higher than what I have played at so far.

"I'm excited to join this squad full of seasoned professionals going into a crucial round of qualifiers, and I hope to be able to make my debut."

However, there was no room for 54-cap goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, who has played only thrice this season for Lion City Sailors, who already have No. 1 Hassan between the sticks.

Instead, the uncapped Syazwan Buhari and Zharfan Rohaizad, first-choice at Tampines Rovers and Tanjong Pagar respectively, got the nod.

Nishigaya will hope his team can be as ruthless and decisive as he is.

He said: "We should aim to be more aggressive in pressing when we do not have the ball, while I want to showcase the abilities of the players to their full potential when we go forward. Most importantly, we have to play collectively as one unit, one team, be it with or without the ball.

"I'm excited for my first game in charge against Kuwait and while a positive result is always welcomed, we need to be able to achieve our preparatory objectives just as much.

"I will use the match to experiment with some new ideas that we would have put in the training sessions prior, and after that, we can then think of how to improve further when we play the three qualifiers."

Goalkeepers: Hassan Sunny (Lion City Sailors), Syazwan Buhari (Tampines Rovers), Zaiful Nizam (Geylang International), Zharfan Rohaizad (Tanjong Pagar)

Defenders: Amirul Adli, Iqram Rifqi, Nur Adam Abdullah (all Sailors), Irfan Fandi (BG Pathum), Nazrul Nazari (Hougang United), Ryaan Sanizal (Tampines), Ryhan Stewart (Young Lions), Safuwan Baharudin (Selangor)

Midfielders: Adam Swandi, Hariss Harun, Shahdan Sulaiman, Saifullah Akbar (all Sailors), Shah Shahiran (Young Lions), Yasir Hanapi, Christopher van Huizen (Tampines)

Forwards: Faris Ramli, Gabriel Quak, Hafiz Nor, Song Ui-young (all Sailors), Glenn Kweh (Young Lions), Ikhsan Fandi (BG Pathum), Shawal Anuar (Hougang), Taufik Suparno (Tampines)

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