Zulfahmi promises to deliver in midfield
With a dream left foot, he knows he has to shine in his favourite role
Much has been said about the absence of Hariss Harun and Safuwan Baharudin from the Singapore line-up for tonight's World Cup/Asian Cup Group E qualifier against Afghanistan.
There is no doubt the Lions will miss their two most influential players, but the suspension of the midfielders also offers the opportunity for Zulfahmi Arifin to step up.
For much of the season, Zulfahmi has been operating in the heart of the LionsXII defence in the absence of injured teammates.
Given the circumstances, Zulfahmi has performed admirably, with his ability to spray accurate passes with his cultured left foot always a worry for opponents.
Tonight, it looks like he will be restored to his natural position.
With the match billed as a must-win for the home side, Zulfahmi has the stage to prove he is just the kind of stylish midfield attacking launchpad the Lions need.
Speaking to The New Paper last night after the team's final training session at the National Stadium, the confident 24-year-old said: "Every player brings different qualities to the team. For me, I just want to do my part where the team need me… most importantly, to keep hold of the ball, provide the passes, dictate the play and start our attacks.
"Of course, I'm happy to be playing (in my natural position) but it is quite tough to change from a centre back to a central midfielder.
"You have to play a totally different game and the fitness levels and intensity are different, but I should be okay in adapting."
Admittedly, he does not provide the same ability to dictate and the ferocity of Hariss, and he is not a potent threat in the air like Safuwan, but Zulfahmi does bring creativity with him, with his eye for a killer pass and his ability at set-pieces.
After starting the qualifiers in impressive fashion with a 4-0 triumph away to Cambodia followed by a stunning 0-0 draw with Japan in Saitama, the Lions hit their first blip last month when they were beaten 1-0 by Syria in Muscat.
Stange's men are desperate for six points, from tonight's encounter and next Tuesday's clash with Cambodia, both at the National Stadium, to get their campaign firmly back on track.
The midfield anchor tonight, alongside Zulfahmi, will be Izzdin Shafiq.
Izzdin has impressed all season long for the LionsXII. He started all three qualifiers and is beginning to make a genuine impression as a Singapore international.
While he admits the team will miss his two usual midfield partners, he just wants to focus on the task at hand.
"It's a big challenge to play without Hariss and Safuwan because they are key players," he said.
"But there's nothing we can do about it, so I'm just going to worry about doing what I usually do and giving 110 per cent.
"Representing the country is always something special and I'm looking forward to the next two matches.
"We need to get our momentum going again and take the three points tonight."
"We know that we need to win both matches, but we will just take each game at a time.
"Even in our defeat by Syria, we played quite well so we enter this game confident and just looking to play our game and, hopefully, the result will come our way."
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