Contrary to the general believe that Pahang coach Zainal Abidin Hassan must being sighing relief that the defending champions will be up against FAM Cup side MISC-MIFA in their FA Cup third round match at the Darul Makmur Stadium tomorrow night, he is actually sweating under his collar.
After having played to a listless draw against Philippines in the AFC Cup match a fortnight ago at home Pahang lost to Armed Forces by a solitary goal last Saturday, before going down to South China in another AFC Cup by a solitary goal on Wednesday night.
While the Pahang fans will looking forward to the Elephants to rise again to their winning ways against MISC-MIFA who are only a club side, Zainal is worried about complacency in his team.
“It is never easy to play a weaker opponent and especially in a FA Cup tournament, the underdogs are the most feared teams,” said Zainal.
“I have always maintained with my players that we treat every team with respect and not to treat anyone any less.
“I am really hoping that my players do not let complacency to set in against MISC-MIFA. In fact our opponents have a few experienced players and as a club team they have nothing to lose but everything to gain.”
But Zainal sought consolation from the team’s determined and all out performance against South China despite a depleted side taking the field and trailing by an early goal.
“I will also have striker Dickson Nwakaeme available after missing the last match because injury, while Azmauddin Akil too looks good to make return. Razman Rosman after having served his suspension for the AFC match, will also be available. Only Matias Conti is still out of action.
“With the return of several first choice players, now I have another but pleasant headache of naming my first XI. It is going to be tough, but at least I have my best players to choose from.”
Armed Forces coached by former national women’s team and Armed Forces team coach, Jacob Joseph, acknowledged that Pahang are the favourites, but as amateur team they have nothing to lose.
Besides, Jacob is looking to his team being motivated by playing in front of a big crowd as they normally play to a very small crowd.
This is the first time that MISC-MIFA, who finished ninth in their third-tier FAM Cup League debut last year, are featuring in the FA Cup knockout competition.
Skipper K. Nanthakumar, former national and Perak player, will indeed be playing a key role in his team.?