Kuala Lumpur – There hasn’t been a Singaporean outfit competing in the region’s oldest Cup Competition in the last 17 years. And lady luck seems to be shining brightly on LionsXII, upon the next Singapore side since Fandi Ahmad and co in 1994 to play in domestic football competitions across the causeway.
The draw for the Malaysia Cup was conducted at the Dewan Merak Kayangan, and V Sundramoorthy’s charges who finished in second position in the recently concluded Malaysian Super League (MSL), were handed what looked like the best possible draw.
LionsXII were drawn alongside Selangor PKNS, Johor FC, who finished seventh and ninth respectively in the MSL, and Malaysian second tier side, Johor FA in Group A.
Johor FA are helmed by Fandi Ahmad, and fans can look forward to a match of Singapore football’s favorite sons, as Fandi and Sundram face off in the storied tourney that helped launch their careers.
MSL Champions Kelantan were drawn with MPL Champions ATM FA, 2011 FA Cup Champions Terengganu and former Malaysia Cup winners Kedah in Group B.
Group C will see Perak, Negeri Sembilan, Felda United and Sime Darby FC fight it out, while 33 times winner of the competition Selangor, T-Team, Sarawak and Pahang round up Group D.
In its 86th edition this year, the Malaysia Cup will be contested by the top 12 teams in the MSL and the top four teams from the Malaysian Premier League (MPL). As LionsXII ended their MSL season in second spot, they were automatically seeded and hence face the luxury of avoiding powerhouses in the names of 2012 MSL Champions and record title holders Selangor in the preliminary rounds.
While travels to away matches may not be seen by many as a problem, a delighted Sundram told aXrosstheline.com that the draw is the best that the LionsXII can get.
“We couldn’t have asked for anything better. Looking at the travelling part of the game, drawing two Johor teams suit us well, because they are based just across the Causeway. PKNS is based in Kuala Lumpur and that is another good opponent to play,” Sundram said.
Despite avoiding teams in the mould of Terengganu, T-Team, and ATM FA who were the MPL Champions this season, Sundram is wary of the threats posed by the two Johor sides as well as PKNS.
“It doesn’t matter who the opponents are, it will be all about ourselves. Are we
physically and mentally prepared to go out and face the teams in our group, thats most important.”
“It can add more colour to the competition especially that Fandi is coming back to play a Singapore side. At the end of the day, we will need to put up good performance for the fans and everybody to enjoy, and that is important,” said the man known as “The Dazzler,” in his pomp.
On paper, it seems likely that it will be a stroll in the park for the LionsXII but Sundram is not taking anything for granted.
“For us, we will take one step at a time. We can be the favorites for the group but if we don’t perform, we may be the one exiting at the group stage. We will focus on getting past the group stage first, before setting further targets,” Sundram told aXrosstheline.com
Skipper Shahril Ishak echoed his coach’s sentiments and stressed that there is no such thing as favourites in knock-out competitions like these.
“There is no such thing as favorites. Both Selangor PKNS and Johor FC have beaten us in the league before, so we need to be at our best to avoid a repeat of those two results,” he said.
LionsXII have a relatively easy task should they progress out of the group. They will play the qualifiers from Group D in the quarter-finals should they advance.
During the draw, Football Association of Malaysia also announced the sponsorship deals from Astro, Sharp and 100 Plus.
The fixtures of the Malaysia Cup will be announced next week.
Malaysia Cup dates:
Match Day 1: 22 August Wednesday
Match Day 2: 25 August Saturday
Match Day 3: 28 August Tuesday
Match Day 4: 01 September Saturday
Match Day 5: 4 September Tuesday
Match Day 6: 14 September Friday
Quarter Final Leg 1: 28 September Friday
Quarter Final Leg 2: 05 October Friday
Semi Final Leg 1: 08 October Monday
Semi Final Leg 1: 12 October Friday
Final: 20 October Saturday