Saturday 23rd June, 2018
24 ℃ | 32 ℃Bandar Seri Begawan

Singapore have confirmed their 23-man squad for the 2018 AFC Under-23 Championships qualifiers, which will be held in Myanmar from July 19 to 23.

All but six of the squad are from S.League outfit, Garena Young Lions.

Coached by experienced Frenchman Richard Tardy, Singapore U23 are in Group F and will face hosts Myanmar, Australia and Brunei. The top teams from the 10 groups, and the five best runners up, will progress to the tournament proper in China next January.

The qualifiers also act as preparation for the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur next month.

Coincidentally, Singapore are also placed in the same group as Myanmar and Brunei for that biennial competition.

The non-Young Lions players are the Home United trio of Irfan Fandi, Adam Swandi and Amiruldin Asraf, Hougang United's Lionel Tan, Geylang International's Darren Teh and Balestier Khalsa's Hanafi Akbar.

It has been a dream return to football for Hanafi this year after falling off the rails previously due to a one-year jail sentence for a drugs' offence.

The talented left-footed playmaker is one of the four players from the Under-15 squad who collected the bronze medal in the 2010 Youth Olympic Games. The others are Fashah Iskandar, Illyas Lee and Muhaimin Suhaimi.

He is keen to make up for lost time and do the nation proud again seven years on.

"This time round, there is no room for mistakes any more," the 22-year-old told The Straits Times. "I've been through a lot in my life, it has been a roller coaster.

"Not everyone gets a second chance, third chance. My aim is to prove that people with second chances can be successful."

There will also be high hopes on Amiruldin and Ikhsan Fandi.

Amiruldin has been in good form for Home in the S.League this season, while Ikhsan -- second son of Singapore legend Fandi Ahmad -- scored the winning goal via a penalty in a 1-0 victory over the India Under-23s on Wednesday.

One glaring omission is Rusyaidi Salime, who has been dropped despite being a standout player at right-back for Garena Young Lions over the past two seasons.

After the AFC Under-23 Championship qualifiers, Tardy's boys will head to Perth for a nine-day training camp before the SEA Games commence.

Singapore Under-23 squad

Goalkeepers: Zharfan Rohaizad, Hairul Syirhan, Fashah Iskandar

Defenders: Darren Teh (Geylang International), Lionel Tan (Hougang United), Irfan Fandi (Home United), Amirul Adli, Shahrin Saberin, Faizal Roslan, Dhukhilan Jeevamani, Syahrul Sazali

Midfielders: Amiruldin Asraf, Adam Swandi (Home United), Illyas Lee, Hami Syahin, Hafiz Sulaiman, Muhelmy Suhaimi, Hanafi Akbar (Balestier Khalsa)

Forwards: Zulqarnaen Suzliman, Haiqal Pashia, Muhaimin Suhaimi, Taufik Suparno, Ikhsan Fandi

Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT

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