Hafiz Sujad eyes Singapore internationals, wants to score more
A rejuvenated Hafiz Sujad is raring to go as Singapore gear up for next Tuesday's crucial 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifier with a friendly against Lebanon on Thursday night.
It has been a whirlwind 2017 for the talented 27-year-old from Tampines Rovers.
He started the year with an eye-catching move to Thai League Two side Big Bang Chula United (BBCU), and played around 10 games. But then the club abruptly withdrew from domestic competitions in late April, without any official reason given.
As a free agent in the June transfer window, he sealed a return to Tampines Rovers. But he struggled to recapture the form that saw him being the only local player among the 2016 S.League Player of the Year nominees.
Things have been better in the last couple of months. He scored his first goal of the season in a 1-1 draw with Warriors FC in September, before getting a second through a trademark long-range drive in a 3-0 win over Garena Young Lions in late October.
The former LionsXII man also notched up an assist with a teasing left-wing cross that set up Ivan Dzoni to thump home the Stags' final goal in a convincing 5-0 drubbing of Brunei DPMM. It confirmed second place and a possible spot in next season's AFC Champions League playoffs for Jurgen Raab's side.
Expected to start in place of the injured Shakir Hamzah at left wing-back in V. Sundramoorthy's 3-4-3 formation, Hafiz is hopeful that the Lions can upset the Bahrain -- ranked 48 places above Singapore in 125th.
Back in March, Sundram's side notched up an unlikely 0-0 draw away to kick off their third-round qualifying campaign.
"It's going to a tough match, but everyone has been working really hard in training knowing that this is a must-win game for us," Hafiz told ESPN FC.
"Bahrain's of course a very good team, but Sundram have his own tactical plans to counter their threat. If we work together as a team, it's not impossible to get a win."
With the year coming an end, Hafiz has already set sights on 2018 and is not ruling out a possible return to Thailand.
"Personally  can be better, especially for my stint in Thailand and I hope to continue there," he said.
"For me, the main goal now is to score more. I target to contribute more to whatever team that I'm playing with next year."
Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT