Perak participated in the AFC Champions League (ACL) for the first time in 2019, albeit only in the qualifying stage but that experience has left the players wanting more. Not least Hafizul Hakim who is eyeing success at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium this weekend for another attempt to get into the biggest competition in Asia next year.
Malaysia have two spots in the ACL in 2020, one direct slot in the group stage to the 2019 Super League champions which is already taken by Johor Darul Ta'zim, and one more in the qualifying round which goes to the champions of the FA Cup.
Kedah stand in the way of Hafizul and his team for another run at Asia's best and the goalkeeper is confident that the experience of having played in the Malaysia Cup final last year will prove useful for the players in what is expected to be a packed Bukit Jalil Stadium.
"What happened last year could help us in the final. The Malaysia Cup and FA Cup are two very different tournaments but the FA Cup champions have a slot in the AFC. That is not to put down the Malaysia Cup because the competition has a rich history. But winning the FA Cup gives us a path to Asia and that's why we want to win it," said Hafizul.
The Perak number one who dons the number 22 on his back is wary of the threat that Kedah possess in their ranks. While they only have Fernando Rodriquez hitting double figures in terms of goals this season, Hafizul is aware that the burly striker will not be the only dangerous player they will face on Saturday.
Aidil Shahrin have shown this season that he prefers to support Rodriguez with Jonathan Bauman and Farhan Roslan while newcomer Edgar Bernhardt has also contributed with several assists to his name. Altogether making The Red Eagles a tough prospect to face for Perak.
Having had a difficult season where his quality has come into question, Hafizul is not one to hide from the problems. Even during the semi-finals, his poor positioning allowed Herold Goulon to score from the halfway line in the first leg but played well in the second leg to keep a clean sheet and helped Perak to the final.
"We know their strikeforce is quite good. What is important is that myself and the back four have to think what we can do to prevent them from scoring. If I'm given the chance to play in the final, for sure I'll give my best.
"Every player makes mistakes. Whether they are punished or not, that depends on the individual match. Sometimes a keeper makes a mistake but they don't concede. But when I do it, more often than not it leads to a goal. I'm also human and I know that I make mistakes. I can't say that I won't make mistakes but as the last man on the pitch, I'll try to minimise them," added Hafizul.
Perak have yet to beat Kedah this season in the two matches that they have faced each other in the Super League. It was a 1-1 draw in Ipoh back in February while Kedah won 4-2 in Alor Setar just two weeks ago. Hafizul and his team mates will be looking to beat their opponents for the first time this season and no better way to do that than in the cup final.
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