PETALING JAYA, Nov 29 – From the coaching staff to players, it will be a battle of the foreigners in the 100th Malaysia Cup final at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Tuesday when defending champions and hot favourites Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) faced Kuala Lumpur City FC for the prestigious silverware.
The Malaysia Cup has a unique place in Malaysian football. Malaysia, once the feared Tigers in this part of the world, can be proud that it is the oldest football tournament in this region. The Malaysia Cup journey is historic in many ways.
JDT, better known as the Southern Tigers are the new kingpins of Malaysian football – taking over the reign for once feared Selangor, better known as the Red Giants. Today, the Klang Valley football giants are plain shadow of their past history despite investing heavily in their much talked about German DNA.
Selangor has won the Malaysia Cup 33 times but their Mission 34 has suffered one fall after another. Their last Malaysia Cup title was in 2015 – the year they beat Kedah 2-0 in the final in Shah Alam.
Putting that side, JDT want to defend the Malaysia Cup they won in 2019, defeating Kedah 3-0 in the final. Last year’s Malaysia Cup was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Without doubt, JDT – who are the undisputed Super League kings and most consistent team after winning their eighth successive title this season – are firm favourites to retain the Malaysia Cup.
However, KL City, under the shrewd Bojan Hodak as the head coach, has ignited the City Boys who are capable of spoiling the party for JDT’s long-serving Mexican coach Benjamin Mora. And it is possible for that to happen.
Hodak is no newcomer to Malaysian football. Just to remind, the Croatian, was with JDT from 2014-2015. The widely traveled Bojan, who is married to a Malaysian, also had stints with Kelantan and Penang, and knows the ins and outs of JDT.
His aces in the KL City FC include skipper Paulo Josue and the Brazilian scored 10 goals in the Super League.
However, it is midfielder turned hitman Romel Romales, who is the big ace in the pack. The Colombian, scored 10 in the Malaysia Cup and is one of the most deadly finisher in Malaysian League.
KL City FC finished sixth in the Super League but a place in the Malaysia Cup final after 32 years is best described as ”historic” – thanks to Hodak’s magic.
KL City last won the Malaysia Cup in 1989 – to complete a hattrick, having also won the silverware in 1987 and 1988.
JDT is bursting with football talent. One player out due to injury or suspension or loss of form is no big concern for Mora. The Mexican has also proven to be shrewd tactician if the need arises and has proven this many a time.
Brazilian hitman Bergson da Silva is JDT’s trump card. He is a bane for opposing goalkeepers and Terengganu’s Suhaimi Husin can testify the ”pain” he underwent in the East Coast team’s 3-0 defeat to JDT in the return-leg Malaysia cup semi-final in Iskandar Puteri on Friday.
Both teams also have local aces in their pack. KL City has Zhafri Yahya and JDT has Arif Aiman. The duo are opportunists who can turn the tide for the respective teams.
Still, the bet is on the foreigners to light up the National Stadium.
As for JDT, the state government has declared that it will be a public holiday in Johor if the Southern Tigers retain the silverware – to celebrate the 100 years of Malaysia Cup.