Football: Ilhan Fandi one of three uncapped players called up for June's World Cup qualifiers

SINGAPORE – Ilhan Fandi, 18, is set to become the latest son of Singapore legend Fandi Ahmad to earn a national cap after he was included in a 26-man squad by national coach Tatsuma Yoshida for next month’s 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

The Lions will travel to Saudi Arabia to take on Group D opponents Palestine (June 3),  Uzbekistan (June 7) and the hosts (June 11). Before that, they will arrive in Dubai, where they will play Afghanistan in a training match on May 29. 

Ilhan, who joins brothers Ikhsan and Irfan in the Lions’ den, is one of three uncapped players to be called up, along with Lion City Sailors’ Saifullah Akbar and Hougang United’s Idraki Adnan, who are both 22.

Other than Safuwan Baharudin, who is recovering from a concussion he suffered while playing for Selangor in the Malaysian Super League, there were no major surprises in Yoshida’s squad.

The Lions’ last outing came in November 2019, a 2-1 away win against Yemen in a World Cup qualifier. They have not played since the Covid-19 outbreak.

Despite being the lowest-ranked side in their Group D World Cup and Asian Cup qualifying campaign, Singapore are third with seven points. They lie four points behind leaders Saudi Arabia, and two behind second-placed Uzbekistan. Yemen have five points while Palestine are bottom with four.

The top finishers in each of the eight qualifying groups and best four second-placed teams will progress to the third round of World Cup qualifiers and secure a spot at the 2023 Asian Cup in China. The rest will still have opportunities to reach the Asian Cup – a tournament that the Lions have featured in only once, in 1984 when they qualified automatically as hosts.

The Singapore squad:

Goalkeepers: Hassan Sunny (Lion City Sailors), Izwan Mahbud (no club), Zaiful Nizam (Balestier Khalsa).

Defenders: Amirul Adli (Lion City), Baihakki Khaizan, Madhu Mohana (Tampines Rovers), Hafiz Abu Sujad, Nazrul Nazari (Hougang United), Irfan Fandi (B G Pathum United), Shakir Hamzah (Perak FC), Zulqarnaen Suzliman (Young Lions).

Midfielders: Hami Syahin (Young Lions), M. Anumanthan (Kedah Darul Aman FC), Hariss Harun, Shahdan Sulaiman, Saifullah Akbar (Lion City) Idraki Adnan (Hougang), Zulfahmi Arifin (no club), Yasir Hanapi (Tampines).

Forwards: Gabriel Quak, Faris Ramli, Hafiz Nor (Lion City), Hazzuwan Halim (Balestier Khalsa), Ilhan Fandi (Young Lions), Ikhsan Fandi (F K Jerv), Shawal Anuar (Hougang).

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