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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

RECORDS DON’T COUNT IN SEMIS


KOTA KINABALU: Drago Mamic has described the Rhinos chances at 40-60 at qualifying for the Malaysia Cup final.

The Croatian said in reality that is the scenario of his team’s chances of disposing Super League outfit Perak from the country’s most prestigious and oldest tournament.

“Actually, I can say that it is a 50-50 affair, but I must be realistic and that our chances are 40-60.

“However, in reality sometimes 40 is more than 60 because in football you never know.

“Sometimes a team can be complacent and try to underestimate their opponents where at the end of the day the underdogs win the game,” said Drago.

“In these two games, everything is possible. Perak are a strong side because if they can beat Perlis after they were trailing 2-0 in the first leg, it shows that they can beat anybody. I was told that Sabah have a good record (in the Malaysia Cup against Perak), but this time they are the stronger side. On our part, I hope we will minimise our mistakes.

When met at the Rhinos’ training ground at the Likas Stadium on Monday, he went on to say that their progression into the Malaysia Cup semi-finals is no fluke.

He then insisted they deserved to be in the last four of the country’s most prestigious and oldest competition.

“We are not here (semi-finals) because we are fortunate, we are here because we deserve it.

“Not any of the teams which made it into the semi-finals made it because they were fortunate.

“We have played 12 games … 10 in the group stages and two in the quarter-finals.”

Ironically, three of the four semi-finalists are from the same group in the preliminary stage.

Newly crowned Super League champions Kedah, Perak as well as Sabah also kicked off their campaign in Group C.

For the record, Kedah top the group on 20 points while Perak and Sabah are level on 18, but Perak stay in second on superior goal average.

While the top two teams earned automatic berths into the quarter-finals, Sabah on the other hand claimed their ticket by being the best third placed team in the four-group competition.

In the group stage, Sabah scored a slim 1-0 victory over Perak in the first round before being held to a scoreless draw in the second round.

But the Rhinos’ head coach refused to be drawn into Sabah’s positive results over their opponents in the group stage.

But Drago said: “That is history. We played Perak in February and we won 1-0 where in fact we could have scored more goals, but then again this (semi-final) will be different because no team would want to waste the chance to play in the final.”

Sabah booked their semi-final ticket after scoring a 3-2 aggregate victory over Negeri Sembilan NAZA, while Perak ousted reigning champions Perlis on a 5-4 aggregate victory.

To play against a top side like Perak, Drago said they need to be really optimistic about everything.

On their preparations, Drago said everything is going on smoothly.

He pointed out that they have enough days to prepare for the clash, unlike early in the season where sometimes they were forced to play seven games within the space of 24 days.

“The team are working very hard. We are working on all aspects of preparations … tactical and physical preparations.

“We have to be at our best because Perak are one of the best teams in the country. So we have to prepare for whatever consequences we are going to face.

“We will prepare ourselves offensively and defensively because in a game we sometimes need to answer to their attack.

On losing his captain Rosdin Wasli through suspension, Drago said: “He is a key player, but you know it is better this happens in the first leg rather than the second leg.”

“His absence is a big handicap for the team, but then again we are not a team which only look at one player to decide a game … so that is okay. Well some players have more quality and some players have less quality, but whoever is playing for the team must give his best shot.”

Overall Drago believes that they can achieve a good result, meaning Sabah will be in the final.

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