Pressure still par for the course for oldest Lion Shahril
He is the oldest player in the Lions squad, and holds the record number of caps for a Singaporean footballer.
But national captain Shahril Ishak, who has donned the national kit 124 times, is feeling anxious ahead of tonight's vital World Cup/Asian Cup Group E qualifier against Afghanistan at the National Stadium.
"It feels like I'm getting ready for my first cap... pressure, you know?" he quipped to The New Paper yesterday afternoon, while flashing his trademark cheeky smile.
The 31-year-old held back the strain at the pre-match conference yesterday afternoon, which he attended with coach Bernd Stange.
But, even with key midfield duo Hariss Harun and Safuwan Baharudin suspended for tonight's match, Shahril does not know if he will take to the field.
After all, the talented schemer, who made his name as a midfield playmaker but has in recent years revelled in a more advanced position as a second striker, has seen his international career stall somewhat recently.
He is match-fit, but has not played a single minute of Singapore's last three World Cup/Asian Cup Group E qualifiers since his last appearance, a 10-minute cameo in the 4-0 win over Cambodia in June in their opening game.
In recent internationals, Stange has opted for a rock solid centre midfield trio of Hariss, Safuwan and Izzdin Shafiq, while Khairul Amri toils upfront, supported by quick wide men.
The formula has proven effective in three away World Cup qualifiers, where the Lions thumped Cambodia before holding Japan to a headline-grabbing goalless draw, followed by a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat by Syria in a match which they had the better chances.
Said Shahril: "If I get the opportunity, I will give of my best to contribute towards a win.
"After all, it doesn't matter if it's your first cap or 100th, the most important thing for a player when you step out on the pitch is to play for those three points at stake.
"We know we have a good chance of qualifying for the next round, so the six points in our next two home games, starting with Afghanistan tomorrow, are our target."
Stange himself was not about to give anything away in terms of selection, and did not directly address the question when probed if Shahril, who plays his club football at second-tier Malaysian side Johor Darul Ta'zim II, would come into the team.
He also played his cards close to his chest at training, preferring not to play a two-sided "Possibles vs Probables" game.
Said the German: "I have the decision in my mind. You are a journalist and you are experienced.
"You know that everywhere in the world, you give your starting line-up just before the game.
"We will definitely have a strong team tomorrow, and we will announce the team just before the game.
"All the rest is speculation and the fact that two players are missing is not a big issue."
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