Singapore striker Fazrul Nawaz has been ruled out of November's AFF Suzuki Cup, dealing a body blow to the hopes of head coach V. Sundramoorthy.
The 31-year-old will be sidelined for more than six months after an MRI scan revealed that he has torn the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee.
He suffered the injury on Wednesday night as his club side Tampines Rovers suffered a shock 2-1 S.League defeat to Hougang United at Jurong West Stadium.
National coach Sundram watched with concern from the sidelines at the home of his former team as the highly rated Fazrul was stetchered off.
He missed the 2008 Suzuki Cup after tearing the ACL in his right knee in the lead up to the Southeast Asian tournament.
"It happened to me back in 2008 and now it has happened again, Fazrul told Today.
"I would have loved to play in the Suzuki Cup but I guess some things are not meant to be. But I am not going to dwell on this too much because this is a setback I can bounce back from.
"Of course, this is disappointing and hard to take."
In recent matches under Sundram and previous boss Bernd Stange, Singapore have struggled to score goals. Indeed, since the start of last year the Lions have managed more than two goals in only two of 17 internationals.
After going through a form slump earlier in the year, Fazrul had regained his confidence over the past few weeks and was central to Singapore's plans for their Suzuki Cup challenge in the Philippines. He has 84 international caps since 2006, scoring 11 times and has contributed some important strikes for Tampines this season, including the winner against Albirex Niigata (S) in a 1-0 victory on June 24.
"(But) we have a lot of quality up front and I feel everyone will step up for the Suzuki Cup," he said.
"Players like [Khairul] Amri and Shahril [Ishak] are experienced and know what it takes to perform at such a high level.
"For now, I will just focus on returning in time early next year for both club and country because I am eager to contribute."
Fazul's injury could see Singapore fast track his Tampines Rovers' teammate Jordan Webb into the side. The Canadian born attacker, 28, has expressed a strong desire to represent his adopted country in the Suzuki Cup, but is awaiting an update on his application for citizenship.