Malaysia Cup: LionsXII at the crossroads

Malaysia Cup: LionsXII at the crossroads
Malaysia Cup match between Felda United vs LionXII

Our writer suggests five ways to lift the limp Lions


Not just last night, the LionsXII have looked disjointed on the pitch at times throughout the season and you just have to look at their pre-season to understand why.

You cannot underestimate the importance of pre-season and the LionsXII just did not get the best of build-ups before the Malaysian Super League (MSL) and the Malaysia Cup.

Players need time to get back into the groove after a break and to get used to new tactics and teammates.

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) appointed Fandi Ahmad as LionsXII coach only on Dec 7 and, by then, most of his players were already in Myanmar for the South-east Asia (SEA) Games which did not end until Dec 22.

As for the Malaysia Cup, players were drafted for an exhibition friendly against Juventus and an international Under-23 friendly against Bahrain, affecting the LionsXII's preparations yet again.

It is understood that the next MSL season could kick off in first week of January, and the AFF Suzuki Cup ends on Dec 20 if the national team go all the way to the final.

The FAS and LionsXII management will have to learn from past lessons regarding the international calendar and National Service to give the team all the help they need to succeed.


Critics who say Fandi inherited a championship-winning team from V Sundramoorthy are missing half the point - he took over a squad stripped of match-winners such as Shahril Ishak and Hariss Harun and had to rely on fringe players, such as Gabriel Quak, Zulfahmi Arifin, Raihan Rahman.

Then there were also some whom Fandi felt were not ready to make the step up. As such, he had to field Madhu Mohana, Zulfahmi and Khairul Amri even when they were not fully fit.

In Sundram's first season, he could call upon the likes of Shahril, Amri, Agu Casmir, Shahdan Sulaiman, Juma'at Jantan, Sevki Sha'ban and Baihakki Khaizan in what was a good blend of youth and experience.

These senior players served as mentors who had a great stabilising effect on the team.

Whether as a centre back, midfielder or makeshift striker, Safuwan Baharudin ran his socks the entire season.

The 22-year-old has shown he could be the quiet leader similar to what Shahril was, but more of the players from his age group need to step up in terms of leadership and influence next season.

But, from what we've seen this term, it could still take them some time to fill those boots, so Fandi must be allowed to drop the players who don't make the grade and pick the players, especially forwards, who fit his philosophy.


What is the plan for the LionsXII? Is it to develop up-and-coming players or to allow national team players to get as much playing time together as possible?

As it stands now, it looks strange that the key attacking trio - Faris Ramli, Shahfiq Ghani and Courts Young Lions' Sahil Suhaimi - who are eligible for next year's SEA Games, are not playing together.

If they are allowed to reunite and play for the LionsXII next season, it would a big boost for Fandi in the attacking third.

If they are all pulled to the Young Lions instead, it could leave the LionsXII with even lesser firepower, which could lead to a poorer season not just in terms of results, but also morale.

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