By Khalis Rifhan
|2013 SQUAD LIST|
Khairulhin Khalid, Neezam Aziz, Syed Sufiyan, Izwan Mahbud
Faritz Hameed, Shakir Hamzah, Ali Hudzaifi, Baihakki Khaizan, Irwan Shah, Safuwan Baharudin, Madhu Mohana, Faris Azienuddin
Shahril Ishak, Hafiz Sujad, Zulfahmi Arifin, Aqhari Abdullah, Nazrul Nazari, Faris Ramli, Gabriel Quak, Izzdin Shafiq, Safirul Sulaiman, Isa Halim, Hariss Harun, Raihan Rahman
Iqbal Hussain, Shahfiq Ghani, Syafiq Zainal, Fazrul Nawaz, Khairul Nizam
Most of the stars from the 2012 team have returned to brighten up the S.League and coach V. Sundramoorthy has been presented with players who are mostly under 23 years of age.
Football Association of Singapore President Zainudin Nordin has indicated that ‘the experience and exposure in the MSL will benefit our LionsXII Under-23 players, most of whom are likely to represent Singapore at the SEA Games in December.’
But LionsXII fans need be too worried as there will be five senior, experienced internationals in captain Shahril Ishak, Baihakki Khaizan, Isa Halim, Irwan Shah and new inclusion, striker Fazrul Nawaz to guide the rookies along.
Goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud has been retained, although there is no tried-and tested-replacement for the national custodian should anything untoward fall upon him in the season.
Despite the LionsXII having a young squad, their opponents will do well to remain wary as the team has a very able assistant coach who is known to bring the best out of young players.
While Sundram is at times known for his defensive tactics, his number two K. Balagumaran is synonymous with his tactics of attacking down the flanks and hitting opponents on the break.
This is one area that Bala might work on extensively as he looks to bring out the best from his midfielders, such as the young and hardworking Hafiz Sujad and the creative Faris Ramli.
One to look out for on is winger Gabriel Quak, who has been recalled to the squad after he was de-registered midway through the 2012 season due to National Service commitments and injury. He packs a punch with his crosses and has a very commanding presence, so that should serve the LionsXII well.
Of course, one should also keep in mind that the LionsXII still have the services of Hariss Harun, who despite being 22 years old has had seven years of international experience under his belt and is the current vice-captain of the national team.
While they might not be title challengers this year, expect the LionsXII to cause upsets along the way, especially at home, and a top-five finish is certainly within their reach.
If there is anything last season's debut season has shown us, it is that the LionsXII are capable of surprising their critics and fans alike, so just sit back and enjoy the 2013 Malaysian Super League, which promises to be as exciting as 2012.
|LIONSXII | Fact File