Khairul Amri wants to play for Singapore until after 2018 Suzuki Cup
Fit-again Khairul Amri wants to stay injury-free for the next couple of years to play at least until after the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup when he will be approaching his 34th birthday.
The Tampines Rovers striker is preparing for Tuesday's 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Turkmenistan at Jalan Besar Stadium.
Since making his international debut as a precocious 19-year-old in 2004, the talented front man has scored 32 times in 116 caps, and grabbed the only goal of Singapore's ill-fated 2016 Suzuki Cup campaign.
Those numbers would be even higher had he not been blighted by a costly series of injury problems.
In 2008, he broke a metatarsal bone in his foot late in the season that caused him to miss that year's AFF Suzuki Cup as the Lions lost in the semifinals against Vietnam.
Two years later, he tore one of his knee muscles while playing for Indonesia Super League side Persiba Balikpapan, and was out for almost a year.
Amri then sustained a groin injury in the 2010 Suzuki Cup, and broke his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) the following year to miss out on the 2014 World Cup third-round qualifiers.
In November 2015, he strained his hamstrings while playing for the now-defunct LionsXII in a Malaysia Cup game. which meant missing the subsequent World Cup home qualifiers against Japan and Syria.
And in March this year, he came off due to a groin injury just 10 minutes into the 0-0 away draw against Bahrain that started the Lions' Asian Cup qualifying campaign.
Amri then missed June's defeats against Chinese Taipei (1-2) and Argentina (0-6), due to an appendicitis problem.
The veteran just wants to stay clear of injuries as he set sights on possibly retiring from international football by 2019.
"I always push and give my best for the team, that's where I need to be really careful," he told ESPN FC. "At this age, I need to be aware of the physical demands of the fame, and be super fit.
"I don't know [when I will retire from Singapore duty]. Probably till the next Suzuki Cup [at the end of 2018) and that should be quite an achievement for me."
Amri put up a typically industrious shift upfront in Singapore's plucky 1-1 draw against Hong Kong in last Thursday's friendly before coming off on the 80th-minute mark for debutant Ikhsan Fandi.
The 32-year-old aims to bulge the net as the Lions look for three points against Turkmenistan in a bid to stay in contention for United Arab Emirates 2019.
V. Sundramoorthy's side are bottom of Group E, with one point from two outings after a shock loss to Chinese Taipei three months ago.
"I'm feeling good to be back on the pitch and I'll try to contribute to the team, hopefully in terms of goals," he said.
"It's unfortunate that we couldn't a result against Chinese Taipei, but we still have four games left and that includes two home games. I expect Turkmenistan to be very physical and we need to be prepared on how they're going to come at us.
"We definitely need to attack in this game. If we can, we need that early goal. That said, we need to strike the right balance. To keep it at 0-0 [until a certain stage of the game] is better than going all out and risk going a goal down."
Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT