Can the Elephants trample all before them and become the first team to retain the Cup since Kedah in 2008?
Home Ground: Darulmakmur Stadium, Kuantan
Nickname: The Elephants
Super League: 3rd
FA Cup: Winners
Last Season's Malaysia Cup: Winners
What happened in the league?
March 6: Pahang were ninth in the standings, two points above the relegation zone after suffering three defeats in five matches. Exit Ron Smith, enter Zainal Abidin Hassan. March 29: Pahang surged to the top, dislodging Terengganu after a 2-0 win over Perak until Selangor brought the Elephants’ 11-match unbeaten streak to a halt in May to gain control of the standings. From thereon Pahang struggled to focus on the league as they channeled their energy in winning the FA Cup on June 7.
A team of aristocrats and cup specialists that are not short on quality in every department.
Pahang lived up to the tag of cup specialists by lifting the FA Cup, their third in a space of eight months. Can Zainal continue that magic?
Boasting two physically strong individuals – Dickson Nwakaeme in attack and Damion Stewart in defence – Pahang are hard to be contained and almost impregnable. Plus, R. Gopinathan’s left flank sorties has kept the fans on the edge of their seats and Matias Conti’s nose for goals are invaluable assets to the Elephants.
Despite the presence of Stewart and former England-based defender Zesh Rahman, the back four can be guilty of lapses in concentration.
The player to watch
Hafiz Kamal’s cultured left foot is a joy to watch. Dangerous with his curling free-kicks and the occasional diagonal long pass, the 27-year old Perak-born likes to move the ball around and equally at home in front of the defence or just behind the attackers.
Succeeding Ron Smith in March, the first thing Zainal Abidin Hassan did was to formulate a game plan revolving around the team’s strengths, relying on speed on the flanks, power and precision in attack, and guile and graft in the middle of the park.
Group stage fixtures
Aug 13 – JDT II (A)
Aug 19 – LionsXII (A)
Aug 22 – Felda United (H)
Aug 26 – Felda United (A)
Aug 29 – LionsXII (H)
Sep 2 – JDT II (H)