WORRY: Rajagobal likely to call up more players
SAFEE Sali was just one of the walking wounded to turn up at Wisma FAM in Petaling Jaya yesterday as national coach K. Rajagobal was at his wits end trying to form a squad capable of taking the challenge to Qatar in an Asian Cup Group D qualifier in Doha on Feb 6.
Injuries to Safee and other key players have opened the door to several newcomers like Super League joint-top scorer Fauzi Roslan of Pahang and late call ups Amri Yahyah and Shahrizal Saad of Felda United to stake a claim for a place in the squad.
Rajagobal is even considering recalling Darul Takzim's Azmi Muslim, who had a poor AFF Suzuki Cup campaign last year, as cover for left-back Asraruddin Putra Omar given the dearth of natural left-footed players in the squad.
"Ideally I want to take 26 players with me to the Middle East although I can register only 23 for the match against Qatar. In case of injuries, I would then have at least three in reserve.
"But it looks like I might have to call up even more players with Shahrizal arriving tomorrow (today). Then we will see how the injured players react to treatment," said Rajagobal after a light work-out yesterday.
Rajagobal is seemingly the victim of a congested domestic schedule which has seen Armed Forces play seven matches in 21 days while the other teams have gone through six games in 18 days in January.
As it stands, Bunyamin Umar, Zubir Azmi, Fitri Omar, K. Gurusamy, S. Kunanlan, Gary Steven Robbat, Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor and Amar Rohidan have either been ruled out or are on the verge of being dropped.
Goalkeeper Fairzal Marlias, Norfarhan Mohammad and Norshahrul Idlan Talaha have niggling injuries and will have to be assessed before being declared fit to travel to Dubai for a friendly against Iraq on Thursday.
Safee suffered a freak injury after training with Darul Takzim on Thursday when he stepped on a ball and rolled an ankle before turning up on crutches at Larkin to watch his team's 1-0 FA Cup win over Perak on Friday.
It that was not bad enough, captain Safiq Rahim is suspended for the Qatar match as a result of his sending off in a World Cup qualifier against Singapore in 2011.
The injuries to frontmen Safiq and Norshahrul could give Selangor's Amri his window of opportunity since last playing for the national team in the victorious 2010 AFF Cup campaign.
"I am excited to be back and as one of the more senior players in a young squad, I hope to lead by example and work hard for the team," said Amri, 32, yesterday.
TRAINING SQUAD -- Goalkeepers: Farizal Marlias, Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, Norazlan Razali; Defenders: Aidil Zafuan Radzak, K. Reuben, Fadhli Shas, Asraruddin Putra Omar, Amiridzwan Taj Tajudin, Mahalli Jasuli, Nik Shahrul Azim Halim, Faizal Muhammad;
Midfielders: Abdul Shukur Jusuh, Norfarhan Mohamad, Ashaari Samsudin, Yong Kuong Yong, Azamuddin Akil, Shakir Shaari;
Forwards: Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, Khyril Muhymeen Zambri, Fauzi Roslan, Amri Yahyah, Shahrizal Saad.