Safuwan, Ikhsan return for Lions against South Korea and Thailand
SINGAPORE – Takayuki Nishigaya will face his toughest assignment as Lions head coach when Singapore face Asian giants South Korea at the Seoul World Cup Stadium next Thursday. But the Japanese tactician will at least be able to call upon his best squad yet with the return of several key players.
On Wednesday, defender Safuwan Baharudin and forward Ikhsan Fandi were named in the 24-man squad for the World Cup qualifiers second round fixtures against South Korea on Nov 16 before hosting Thailand five days later at the National Stadium.
Singapore are ranked 155th in the world, while the Koreans are 24th and the Thais are 112th.
Safuwan has not played for the national team since June 2022 as he had not received medical clearance following successive head injuries. The 32-year-old Selangor defender has now been cleared by the local medical team to play competitively and will get a chance to add to his 108 international caps.
Ikhsan, who has 18 goals in 34 matches for the Lions, has not played for the Republic since a knee injury sustained last December in a 3-1 win over the Maldives and the 24-year-old has yet to feature for Thai side BG Pathum United in 2023.
His older brother Irfan, 26, also returns. The central defender last played for the Lions in the 4-1 hammering at the hands of Malaysia during an AFF Championship group-stage fixture in January. Club teammate Ryhan Stewart also returns after missing the first round fixtures against Guam due to a hamstring injury.
The Lions will begin reporting for centralised training from Friday before flying to South Korea on Sunday.
Meanwhile, South Korea head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has picked his strongest possible squad to face Singapore and China in their opening matches.
Tottenham star Son Heung-min, who has scored eight goals in 11 English Premier League appearances this season, Lee Kang-in of Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich defender Kim Min-jae and Wolverhampton Wanderers’ in-form forward Hwang Hee-chan are all included.