LionsXII eye another Cup
Goal is to relive magic of FA Cup final triumph; Fandi says home wins a must
LIONSXII v KEDAH
(Tonight, 7.45pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
They lifted the Malaysian FA Cup for the first time in May.
As they kick off their Malaysia Cup campaign against Kedah FA at the Jalan Besar Stadium tonight, the LionsXII are dreaming of more success.
Midfielder Izzdin Shafiq said the players are aiming to recreate the unique feeling of playing in a final in front of 80,000, just like they did four months ago.
Speaking to The New Paper ahead of their opening Group A encounter, the 24-year-old said: "Winning the FA Cup was amazing, but that's in the past now, and since we didn't do so well in the league, the Malaysia Cup is our chance to show what we can do.
"It's hard to describe the feeling of the FA Cup win other than saying it was 'shiok'... It was overwhelming.
"We hope we can use the FA Cup triumph as a motivation for us now, and God willing, we can have the same success in the Malaysia Cup."
The LionsXII ended their Malaysian Super League (MSL) campaign on a high with a 3-0 win over relegated Sime Darby on Aug 22, preserving the team's unbeaten home record at Jalan Besar this season.
But they struggled away from home - they lost seven of 11 matches - and Fandi Ahmad's men finished only seventh in the 12-team competition.
The teams that finished in the top four were seeded for the Malaysia Cup draw, and Terengganu, who were fourth in the MSL, head Group A, along with Kedah, the Malaysian Premier League champions, and another second-tier outfit, Johor Darul Ta'zim II.
Zulfahmi Arifin, who has flitted between central defence and midfield this season, said: "The furthest we have gone so far in the Malaysia Cup is the semi-finals (in 2012).
"For now, our approach is to just take one game at a time, because even the group stage is not easy, but we will try our best to go as far as possible.
"It's good to play our first game at home, but there's also the pressure to win. We'll just be positive and, hopefully, the three points will come to us."
Fandi, who won six Malaysia Cups during a glittering playing career, believes the team's performance on the road will be key to any hopes of success.
"The Malaysia Cup is a very tough competition and, if you want to win it, you have to be able to perform at your best both home and away," said the 53-year-old.
"If you look back to when we last won the Malaysia Cup in 1994, we were also strong away from home.
"Hopefully, our youngsters have learnt the lesson over the season and, having played international matches away during the break, they can cope better."
The majority of the side were on international duty over the last fortnight, losing a friendly with Oman 4-0 in Abu Dhabi before going down to Syria 1-0 in a tough World Cup qualifier in Muscat.
Fandi knows the score, and says his side have to collect nine points at fortress Jalan Besar.
Last year, the LionsXII drew twice and lost one of the three home games, and were eventually dumped out at the group stage.
"To get through to the second round, we must win our three games at home, and try to also pick up points in two of the away matches," said Fandi.
"It's possible for us to make it if the boys believe in their ability and the strength of the team."
- PROBABLE LIONSXII LINE-UP: Izwan Mahbud, Nazrul Ahmad Nazari, Madhu Mohana, Shakir Hamzah, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Izzdin Shafiq, Zulfahmi Arifin, Chris van Huizen, Safuwan Baharudin, Faris Ramli, Shahdan Sulaiman