Football: Rotating to find best XI

Sundram will change starting line-up in HK friendly to check out other squad players

Hariss Harun being challenged by Malaysia's Azrif Nasrulhaq during last Friday's 0-0 draw. Hong Kong should prove to be a tougher proposition tonight.
Hariss Harun being challenged by Malaysia's Azrif Nasrulhaq during last Friday's 0-0 draw. Hong Kong should prove to be a tougher proposition tonight.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

With 40 days to go before Singapore kick off their Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup campaign on Nov 19, national caretaker coach V. Sundramoorthy is tinkering with his options to find his best XI.

For tonight's friendly away match against Hong Kong, the 51-year-old tactician is expected to field a starting line-up that looks different from the one he had chosen for last Friday's 0-0 Causeway Challenge draw against Malaysia at the National Stadium.

On ringing in the changes to his squad, Sundram said: "While it is important for me to watch my first team play, it is also important for me to see how the others - who did not get a chance to play against Malaysia - can perform as well.

"We have a big squad of players with us. Given opportunities, they must pick themselves to be in the first XI."

Added vice-captain and midfielder Hariss Harun, 25: "We have a good mix of experienced and young players and everyone is seeking to prove that he deserves to be in the final squad for the Suzuki Cup."

Sundram has shown that he is open to rotating his players to give them opportunities to make an impression.

He recalled veteran defenders Daniel Bennett, 38, and Juma'at Jantan, 32, to the starting XI for the Causeway clash.

So the likes of Hafiz Sujad, 25, and Fahrudin Mustafic, 35, both of whom started the Malaysia match on the bench, could be given run-outs at the Mong Kok Stadium tonight.

Sundram could also turn to 24-year-old Sahil Suhaimi, who came on as a second-half replacement for first-choice striker Khairul Amri, 31, to find the net.

While Sahil has just one goal from 18 international appearances, he has scored five goals for his club Geylang International in all competitions this season.

Sundram, who is known for being pragmatic, said: "As you know, the team played very well against Malaysia, but we did not win.

"It is important to create opportunities and score. On another day, we could have beaten Malaysia 3-0. But that's football."

It could prove to be a more difficult task for the Lions to find their scoring touch against Hong Kong, who are ranked 13 spots above 155th-ranked Singapore in the Fifa world rankings.

Hong Kong enter the match on the back of two friendly wins over Cambodia, and they have naturalised strikers - Ghana-born Godfred Karikari and England-born Jaimes McKee.

Facing stronger, taller and bigger opponents will be a good preparation for Singapore as they will face the Philippines, a side with many foreign-born players, in their opening Suzuki Cup tie in Bocaue.

Sundram said: "One of the reasons we are playing Hong Kong is that they are similar to some of our Suzuki Cup opponents."

Hariss added: "It won't be easy to play against a physically strong Hong Kong side but we are determined to go out and get a positive result."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2016, with the headline 'Rotating to find best XI'. Print Edition | Subscribe