National Team - Lions ● Nov 10, 2018
Zulqarnaen shines on Suzuki Cup debut
SINGAPORE, 10 NOVEMBER 2018 – To make your competitive international debut is one thing; to face one of Southeast Asia’s best young wingers on top of that is another.
But Zulqarnaen Suzliman rose to the challenge on Friday night at the National Stadium as Singapore beat Indonesia 1-0 in their ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup 2018 opener.
Up against the electrifying Febri Haryadi, who scored in the Indonesia Under-23s’ 3-0 friendly win over Singapore in March, the Singapore right-back turned in a stunning defensive performance.
Zulqarnaen, who also played in that U-23 match, did not cede an inch to the 22-year-old Persib Bandung attacker and his stellar shackling prevented Febri from delivering dangerous crosses into the box. Along with Shakir Hamzah on the other flank, the Lions shut out Febri and Ricky Fajrin on the wings and cut out the Garuda’s service to striker Beto.
The 20-year-old’s display was all the more remarkable given that the former right winger was only converted to right-back this season and made his Lions debut in September.
Zulqarnaen’s showing on his fourth cap was certainly noticed by the 30,783-strong crowd and “Mamat”, as he is known, was happy enough with his tournament bow but keen not to get carried away at the same time.
“He (Febri) didn’t attack me a lot of times and in the second half, he changed his position to play on the right (so) I think (it showed that) I did pretty well to defend against him,” he told assembled media after the game.
“I got confidence from the first half and in the second half, I tried to go forward a lot (more) and made some good crosses, so I think my confidence is pretty good right now.
“I think fitness-wise, I need to be fitter and not get cramps from the 60th or 70th minute (onwards)… I would rate myself maybe around seven or eight (out of ten); we cannot rate ourselves highly because it’s only one game and we still have more games coming up.”
With the rest of the team turning in a fighting display to seal a fourth straight victory under Fandi Ahmad, Zulqarnaen felt that it showed that the Lions can rise to the challenge in a competitive setting.
“For the past friendly matches, (some of) the fans said that it’s (only) Mauritius, Mongolia, Fiji and Cambodia (whom we played well against and) those are not strong teams,” he said. “So (tonight), we proved it (that we can play well) to them at the Suzuki cup and beat Indonesia (who were favourites).”
The speedy full-back’s focus is now on the next Group B match away to the Philippines in Bacolod, where the Lions arrived at earlier this evening.
“Philippines have more foreign (naturalised) players so I think it is going to be a tough match,” Zulqarnaen said. “We know it’s going to be tough as it’s their home… But we won the first match and we will go there with confidence, so I think we can match them.”