By Ng Jun Xian, Owen Tan & Sugumaran Devaraja | Goal.com Singapore
In the third part of the LionsXll mid-season review, Goal.com Singapore’s Ng Jun Xian, Owen Tan and Sugumaran Devaraja take a look at the centrebacks of the LionsXll and their performance so far.
|The LionsXII Centrebacks
Also known as... Braveheart
Similar to goalkeeper Izwan, Safuwan shot to stardom when he excelled in the heart of the defence during last year’s 2014 Brazil World Cup Asia Qualifier campaign.
After joining the Lions, Safuwan has taken his game to the next level, reading the game much better now. Other than that, the defender is also quick and disciplined and often made crucial tackles in the game to stop the opposing team’s attackers.
The 21-year-old is also strong in the air, thus making him a danger man up front in dead ball situations. But what surprises people most is his ability to operate at the other end of the field also, being a forward.
Safuwan was asked to move up front by Lions coach V Sundramoothy, playing as a forward towards the end of the home match against Perak and it was him who created the winning goal for Irwan Shah.
With two goals to his name, the defender will be looking forward to scoring more during the second half of the season. More importantly, if he continues to learn and mature as a player, it is likely that he will become one of the top defenders in Singapore in the future.
Also known as... The Enforcer
At 27 years old, Sevki is one of the more experienced defenders in the LionsXII backline and when called upon, he has shown his reliability in the team.
Initially a left back at his former club Geylang United, the defender was converted to play in the middle under coach V Sundramoothy and he had adapted well in making himself a strong man at the heart of the defence along with Safuwan and Baihakki.
A no-nonsense defender, Sevki deals with everything the opponent causes with ease and often unleashes strong tackles to win the ball back.
He recently got his first goal for the team in the 5-0 rout of PKNS and did a cradle celebration, which, he explained after the match, was a dedication to his wife and their new child who is due in June.
If the defender can keep up his good form, he will be like the reliable player that serves as a rock in the heart of the defence, a tough centre back opponents have to get past to the Lions goal.
Also known as... The Commander
The 1.90m Baihakki stands tall both physically and in terms of reputation in the local sports scene. The former Young Lions and Singapore U-23 captain is a towering defender blessed with vision and skills.
Also known as ‘Bai’, the well-travelled centre back spent three years in Indonesia playing for Persija Jakarta, Persib Bandung and also Medan Chiefs before returning to join the LionsXll this year.
His experience overseas has been beneficial to his skills, as he is sharper and stronger now. Baihakki was also the one who scored the first goal for the Lions this season with a thumping header in the first game against Kelantan.
But he has unfortunately often troubled by injury problems, restricting his appearances for the LionsXII this season. Fortunately for the team, he is currently back to training and is expected to return soon and his presence would be a big boost for the team.
The 28-year-old’s composure will be important for the LionsXII towards the end of the season in their pursuit for the Malaysia Super League title in their first attempt.
Stay tuned for the fourth part of the series featuring the defensive midfielders.