Football

Arise, superheroes

DAVID LEE picks out four players who could save the day for the LionsXII tonight

To win the Malaysian FA Cup final tonight, the LionsXII will need a Herculean effort to overcome a powerful Kelantan side who boast four foreigners.

The quartet of goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, defender Madhu Mohana, midfielder Safuwan Baharudin and striker Khairul Amri are likely to play key roles in the LionsXII's bid to become the first Singaporean side to win a cup competition in Malaysian football since 1994.

- TNP ILLUSTRATIONS: BILLY KER

SUPERMAN


IZWAN MAHBUD

A regular bloke by day, Izwan morphs into Superman when he puts on the LionsXII jersey at night.

From post to post, he makes flying saves and, more often than not, the last line of defence has proved to be impenetrable. He has kept six clean sheets in 15 games.

In the fiery Bukit Jalil cauldron, Izwan will need to not just fly, but also rely on his telescopic vision to launch counter-attacks.

He has to employ his super-intelligence to know when to slow the tempo of the game, and activate his super-hearing and super-breath powers to communicate with his team amid all the cheering and jeering, and to calm his teammates down when things threaten to boil over.

Izwan's kryptonite could be Badhri Radzi's set-pieces, and he will need his defence to put up a lead wall to counter this Kelantan threat.

NIGHTCRAWLER


MADHU MOHANA

Potentially, the LionsXII are just 90 minutes from historic cup glory, and a clean sheet will go a long way to achieving that milestone.

Madhu is counting on his night vision to see through the enemy's attacks.

To transform from a right back to a centre back, Madhu's field of vision has expanded from just one flank to the entire pitch.

However, his superb spatial awareness allows him to remain in control - as it showed when he kept Paulo Rangel in check against Terengganu - and keep the defence organised even as chaos threatens to reign.

Like the Nightcrawler, Madhu has impressive flexibility, balance and body coordination, which allows him to fend off big foreign strikers, such as Kelantan's 1.86m-tall Nigerian forward Iwuji Amamchi.

IRON MAN


SAFUWAN BAHARUDIN

In a nod to Iron Man's versatility, Safuwan has also developed several specialised armoured suits for different occasions.

He can be deployed as a trusty centre back, a visionary central midfielder and even as an emergency striker.

With his genius-level football intellect, he adapts quickly to whatever position he finds himself in, which will be crucial against Kelantan as the LionsXII will need to capitalise on all of his attacking and defending abilities.

Over the years, Safuwan's body has taken a battering, with head and spinal injuries, vomit episodes, and a thigh-long scar to show for his on-pitch battles.

But it seems all he needs are the stadium lights to come on to turn on his regenerative life support, and it's all systems go again for the all-action superhero.

PUNISHER

KHAIRUL AMRI

Amri is highly trained in infiltration into heavily-guarded enemy territories and structures.

He also has an extraordinarily high pain tolerance, as shown last year, when he carried on playing in a match despite a fractured cheekbone.

His mental strength is off the charts.

He is a deadly assassin despite some career-threatening knee injuries.

He is a vigilante who takes things into his own hands.

When the chips are down and all seems lost, Amri defies the law of gravity to conjure goals out of nothing, like the defining away goal against Terengganu, when he recovered from a slip to thump the ball in off the bar.

Amri the Punisher loves to have the final say, and has already scored in three Suzuki Cup finals in 2005, 2007 and 2012 for Singapore.

In Tampines Rovers colours, he also netted the winner in the 2-1 win over Warriors FC in the 2013 Charity Shield.

And you can be sure, there won't be any room for charity from the Punisher tonight.



FINAL

KELANTAN v LIONSXII

(Tonight, 8.30pm, StarHub TV Ch 112/205 & 76.25MHz)

Malaysian FA Cuplionsxii