Irfan Fandi fits role of Singapore national defender - Sundramoorthy

He was once touted as a striker of the future, but teenager Irfan Fandi could be given a taste of defensive duties when Singapore play Afghanistan in Doha on Thursday night.

The two sides will face off in a friendly before the Lions travel to Riffa to play Bahrain in their opening third-round qualifier for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

The lanky Irfan has been playing mostly as a centre-back for S.League outfit Home United in recent months.

"He has a good physical presence, is strong in the air, a ball winner and fits into the role of a central defender. I have confidence in Irfan that he is a good central defender," head coach V. Sundrmoorthy told the Straits Times.

"I believe that Irfan is a hard-working player. Although he is still young, he is consistently improving his play as a central defender."

Even without the overlooked Baihakki Khaizan, Singapore have many options in defence. However, with both Daniel Bennett (39 years old) and Fahrudin Mustafic (35) being in the twilight of their careers, Sundramoorthy may look to blood 19-year-old Irfan.

"Having plenty of choices in defence is a good thing to have. It places defenders [in a position] to fight for their places and to know that they need to work hard to cement their place in the national team," Sundram said of the eldest son of his former national teammate, Fandi Ahmad.

Singapore are favoured, along with Bahrain, to advance as one of the top two teams from Group E of qualifying for the 2019 Asian Cup in United Arab Emriates. The other nations in Group E are Turkmenistan and Chinese Taipei.

The Lions are desperate to return to winning ways in their first international action since last November's disappointing AFF Suzuki Cup campaign where they failed to advance beyond the group stages.

"Every game is important, be it a friendly or an official competition," Sundram said of Thursday night's match against Afghanistan.