When the Lions march out the tunnel to a capacity crowd at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday evening, it will mark one of the youngest ever starting lineups to represent the Republic in the international arena.
With an average of just 23.54 years, the Singapore side that will start against causeway rivals Malaysia is set to be entirely populated by players donning LionsXII colours in the Malaysian Super League.
That likelihood was observed as the Lions were put through their paces at Jalan Besar on Wednesday evening, with Qiu Li, Mustafic Fahrudin, Shi Jiayi and Daniel Bennett look set to start the game from the bench.
With Radojko Avramovic (Raddy) placing his emphasis on youth rather than experience, the match will go some way in answering the question on the lips of several in the football fraternity: can these young players step up and fill the shoes of the Lions’ seasoned campaigners.
Despite being part of a new side to take on traditional rivals Malaysia, playmaker Shahdan Sulaiman is not too bothered by Avramovic’s choice of a first XI.
“I don’t think it will be a disadvantage to us. Coach (Raddy) is trying out players and he has his own ideas on how to provide international exposure to some of the players,” Shahdan told aXrosstheline.com.
“I feel that it is a good move because it’s an opportunity to see my peers coming through the ranks and some of them making their bow,” he added.
Shahdan is expected to operate in his usual playmaking role and he will shoulder much of the attacking responsibilities alongside Agu Casmir. He insists that the pressure by fans for the team to deliver will only spur his team to do well in the game.
“There will definitely be pressure as fans will be hoping for us to get as many goals as possible. To me, it serves as a motivation.
“Most of us have been playing together week in week out, and we understand each other well, therefore there should not be any problems adapting to each others’ play,” said Shahdan.
Shahdan will be making his first start against Malaysia at the senior level and he vowed to do his best to help Singapore claim a victory against the oldest of rivals.
“I think the Singapore-Malaysia rivalry is always strong. Even though it might be a friendly game, we will be going all out for a win!”
Tickets to the game are still available at the Jalan Besar Stadium’s North Entrance from 10am. Fans getting the tickets do note that Concession and Gallery tickets have been sold out. Grandstand ($18) and King George’s Stands’ ($10) are still available.
Singapore Probable lineup (4-2-3-1):
Izwan Mahbud, Irwan Shah, Baihakki Khaizan (Captain), Safuwan Baharudin, Shakir Hamzah, Isa Halim, Hariss Harun, Yasir Hanapi, Shahdan Sulaiman, Shaiful Esah, Agu Casmir.