'Fantastic' Shahril could help Singapore in Asian qualifying - coaches

Opposing coaches Razif Onn and Philippe Aw agree that national captain Shahril Ishak deserves a starting spot for Singapore's 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in September and October.

The 33-year-old attacking midfielder has been used mostly off the bench by national boss V. Sundramoorthy over the past couple of seasons.

But his goal-scoring form for Warriors FC since returning to the S.League from Malaysia's Johor Darul Ta'zim II at the end of last year means the veteran is pushing to be Lions' starter again. He also helped Warriors advance to last month's Singapore League Cup final, scoring a hat trick in the semifinal victory over Brunei DPMM.

However, his club boss Onn and Hougang United coach Aw concede Sundramoorthy may need to play a certain way to get the best out of the three-time AFF Suzuki Cup winner, who is in his best touch in years.

Shahril's 12th goal of the season gave Warriors a 1-0 S.League victory over Hougang at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday night.

"Obviously, international level is a different level, but for my team he has been fantastic from day one," Razif said. "You can see how he work with Jordan Webb to create chances to score.

"As for national team, you have to ask Sundramoorthy. It depends on the tactics of the team."

Aw added that Sundramoorthy could opt to start with Shahril in the World Cup qualifier against Turkmenistan at Jalan Besar Stadium on Sep. 5.

"Shahril's an experienced and clever player. He may not have the energy for the full 90 minutes at international level, but it depends on how you set up to play to suit a player," Aw said.

"If you keep the ball on the ground, let play goes through him, he can play a good 60 to 70 minutes."

Shahril, who made his Singapore debut in 2003, has earned a staggering 133 caps, and was named national captain in 2010. However, Hariss Harun wears the armband when Shahril is on the bench.

Razif reckons that Shahril could play for the national team right through the Lions' Asian Cup qualification campaign until the end of next year.

"Maybe he can still play for national team for another year. He's a bit slow but still intelligent," Onn said.

Aw added: "If it's long ball, in which he has to chase for the ball, it's not good for him. But not many players have the vision of his."

Struggling for attacking spark, Singapore have only one point from their opening two qualifying matches for United Arab Emirates 2019, losing 2-1 at home to Chinese Taipei on June 10.

After hosting Turkmenistan next month, they will play them away on Oct. 10 before a home match against Bahrain on Nov. 14.