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 By Kelvin Leong

Geylang's Safirul keen to impress Sundram for Singapore AFF Cup berth

Geylang International midfielder Safirul Sulaiman has promised to go all out on Singapore's tour of Japan next week as he tries to earn a Suzuki Cup spot under new coach V. Sundramoorthy.

The former Young Lions and LionsXII player was called up by Bernd Stange in 2015 but did not feature. His five international appearances came in 2012 -- he made his debut against Hong Kong -- under previous boss Radojko Avramovic. He was also a key member of the Singapore U23 side in last year's Southeast Asian Games on home soil.

Having traded his LionsXII jersey for the green and white of Geylang this season, the left-footed midfielder has made 11 appearances for the eastern giants to earn his national call up.

Singapore will gather on July 11 for centralised training before heading to Japan to play J-League side Albirex Niigata FC on July 24. They will then face Cambodia in an international friendly four days later in Phnom Penh.

Safirul, one of seven Eagles in the squad along with 38-year-old defender Daniel Bennett, is keen to use the trip as a gauge of his own abilities with the Southeast Asian showcase only five months away.

"Of course, every Singapore player's dream is to win the Suzuki Cup," he told ESPN FC. "But to even earb the chance to be in the team for the tournament is tough enough.

"I have played for Singapore five times and perhaps I'll have a chance to wear the Lions jersey against Cambodia. But first up, I need to give 100 percent during training."

Geylang midfielder Safirul Sulaiman
Safirul Sulaiman, right, represented Singapore five times at the senior level under Raddy Avramovic.

Focused on pulling on the Singapore training kit again next week, Safirul heaped praise on his teammates and club officials for helping him to return to the international fold.

"Joining Geylang to play in the S.League was the right decision for my career," he explained. "Coach Hasrin [Jailani] and the rest of the backroom staff have been trying to improve my game.

"When the season started, I was in and out of the team but it's been great to get more game time in the last couple of months as a starter.

"Playing and training with senior players like Dan [Bennett], Isa [Halim] and Noz Azli helps younger players like myself. Every day I pick up something new from them and try to add it to my game."

Having earned success as a Malaysia Super League winner in 2013 under Sundram's guidance withe LionsXII, Safirul would love to reunite with his former coach at international level but doesn't want to get too far ahead of himself.

"I'm looking only to focus and give it all I've got. Wherever coach puts me, because he knows my strengths well, I'll try to do my best," Safirul said.

"It is easy to say I want to be at the Suzuki Cup but if I fail to do well in training, then it is pointless to look too far ahead. What I want is to stay grounded and do what I know, the rest will fall in place hopefully."

Singapore are using the Japan tour and Cambodia game as part of their preparations for Southeast Asia's showpiece event that will be held in Philippines and Myanmar.

This will be Sundram's first opportunity to land an international title and further cement his place as Lions' kingpin for more years to come.

ESPN FC editor Kelvin Leong is a former media officer for Singapore and ex-regional editor of ESPNSTAR.com. Twitter: @KelvinLeong29.

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