With the Malaysian league season over, it's now time for 16 select teams to battle for Malaysia Cup supremacy. Ooi Kin Fai previews all four groups in this opening stage...
What happened in the league?
A heart-wrenching finish to the season for second-placed Pahang as they watched the title slip away on the final day with a defeat at Terengganu. The team relied heavily on the league's standout strong-man in forward Dickson Nwakaeme and boasted a backline manned by probably the second strongest in Damion Stewart. Having led the league comfortably for most of the season, Zainal Abidin Hassan's men endured a torrid August that left their title hopes in flames.
Did anything go wrong?
The squad was way too small for Zainal to rely on. When you have the same 12-to-14 players who are virtually always starting, it's no surprise when the high level of performance starts dipping towards the end of the campaign.
What went right?
The decision to bring in Matthew Davies was the perfect tonic at a time when Jalaluddin Jaafar and Shahrizan Salleh were struggling fitness-wise. Sporting the rather old-school look of low socks was the no-nonsense, Australian-born right back that gave Pahang's defence the right balance.
Player to watch?
Nwakaeme is the pick of the bunch here for obvious reasons. Often typecast as just a strong player, the striker is so much more than that. Clever on the ball and a creative force as well, the Nigerian import is a true team player.
It will be a real surprise if Pahang don't finish top of this group.