Wednesday, 13 August 2014 | MYT 2:24 PM
Distractions and holidays aside, the Malaysia Cup is ready for kick off
Argentinian hotshot Matias Conti will be ready to lead the challenge for defending champions Pahang in the Malaysia Cup - filepic
PETALING JAYA: The World Cup Finals is done and dusted.
Local fans will now switch their focus to the Malaysia Cup action, which kicks off tonight.
The question is how will teams cope after the 50-day break (fasting month and Hari Raya holidays)?
Some teams have taken advantage of the long break to improve on the team strength with the return of the injured ones while for some it has simply back-fired.
Take for instance last year’s finalist Kelantan. Their star midfielder Mohd Shawky from Egypt has gone AWOL since he left for home on June 21. Shawky was suppose to report for training on July 6 but has failed to show up since then.
To make matters worst the Kelantan FA (KFA) is losing patience with their former World Cup signing from Ghana Prince Tagoe’s struggle with fitness.
Team manager Azman Ibrahim said despite the setbacks Kelantan will still be a reckoned force in the Malaysia Cup competition.
“We may have our shortcomings but when it comes to the Malaysia Cup our boys tend to raise to the occasion. We are not giving up without a fight,” warned Azman ahead of the tough opening match in Group C against fancied Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) at the Larkin Stadium tonight.
The Red Warriors have been one of the most consistent teams - having qualified to four finals in the last five years (since 2009). The odds are against them this time.
Azman said even former Ryukyu FC striker Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor is not fit to start although having signed up with the east coast side in April this year.
One team who will be hoping to ride on their current form is Pahang, the defending Malaysia Cup champions.
Pahang coach Zainal Abidin Hassan, however, felt that the momentum will not be the same.
“Teams will try to regain their playing rhythm again. It is almost two months teams have not played any competitive matches. Yes, we trained during the fasting month and played a few friendly matches here and there but it is not the same,” said Zainal, who led the Elephants to the FA Cup title this season.
The former international, who together with Dollah Salleh led Pahang to the Malaysia Cup title last season, said the break would also do the teams a world of good.
“It is time for them to correct the wrongs in the team. Clean up the bad habits and cover the mistakes. We have prepared well for the Malaysia Cup and we are in good shape to defend the title,” said Zainal.
All eyes will also be on the glamour boys - JDT. The team have grown in strength from year to year and have won their first title when they emerged Super League champions this year.
Then, there is rich in tradition Selangor - winners of the Malaysia Cup for a record 32 times. But it tough for the Red Giants, who seem to depend heavily on Golden Boot winner Paulo Rangel to deliver the goods.