The Maldivian club is placed in Group D of the competition.
The AFC Cup 2021 campaign from the South Zone begins on August 18. ATK Mohun Bagan will be making their first-ever appearance in the competition. The Mariners are in a challenging Group with Bangladesh Premier League champions Bashundhara Kings, Maldivian club Maziya R&C. The winner between Bengaluru FC and Club Eagles, who meet in the AFC Cup Qualifier on Sunday will be the fourth team in Group D.
Here we do a comprehensive analysis of Maziya S&RC, one of the three opponents ATK Mohun Bagan will face in Group D to advance to the knockout stages of the AFC Cup.
Despite not getting as much competitive football as they’d like in the last year, Maziya possess some valuable talents in their arsenal. More importantly, they also have the experience of regularly playing in the AFC Cup. Underestimating them could be the downfall for any team in the group. The reigning Dhivehi Premier League champions have the means to cause a real upset this year.
In recent years, Maziya have dominated the Maldivian top division. They won the 2019/20 Dhivehi Premier League in compelling fashion. They were also crowned champions last season, which was shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the Green Boys didn’t lose a single game in their last title win.
Maziya started their AFC Cup preparations in early July. Since then, they’ve played a few friendly games to get match-ready. The Green Boys defeated Al-Ittihad 2-1 in their first friendly of three ahead of the AFC Cup.
They drew the second against Saudi Arabian side Al-Wehda. They also played out an entertaining 2-2 draw against Jeddah FC in their final friendly before the competition.
About the Team
Formed only in 1996, Maziya S&RC have done well to come far in the short span. They’ve won the Dhivehi Premier League three times, as well as the Maldives FA Cup twice. The Green Boys have also won the Maldivian Charity Shield thrice, as well as the President’s Cup and the Male League once.
In the AFC Cup, Maziya have a decent record. They’ve participated in six editions and played 36 games in the competition. Out of that, the Green Boys have won 11 games, drawn eight and lost 17.
Maziya’s best performance in the AFC Cup was in the 2017 edition when they faced Bengaluru FC and Mohun Bagan. They ended the group stages in second, despite finishing on the same points as Bengaluru FC. Maziya finished second due to their poor head-to-head record with BFC.
At the start of 2021, Maziya appointed Yugoslavian Risto Vidakovic as their head coach. The 52-year-old has coaching experience of over 15 years and guided them to the Dhivehi Premier League title last season.
Vidakovic started his coaching career in 2006 after joining the Serbian national team as an assistant manager. In 2008, he joined Spanish club Real Murcia as an assistant manager. The Yugoslavian got his big break in management in 2009 and was appointed as the manager of Spanish lower division club Ecija.
In the next few years, he went on to manage Spanish clubs like Cadiz and Real Betis ‘B.’ But, Vidakovic’s shining moment as a manager came after he took over Philippines side Ceres-Negros in 2016. He found success with the Filipino side and helped them to three successive Philippines Football League titles from 2017-2019.
Vidakovic loves setting up his sides to play exciting, attacking football. His Ceres-Negros side were often the most entertaining team to watch in the Philippines league during his management. Maziya has also been very strong defensively under the Yugoslavian coach, as he’s set them up to be a stubborn, rigid unit.
With their unique attacking patterns and strong defensive system, Vidakovic will certainly setup his side to take the fight to their AFC Cup opponents.
Players To Watch
Cornelius Stewart has been a mainstay at Maziya for quite a few years now and has become a real fan-favourite at the club. In his first stint in 2018, he scored 20 goals in 23 appearances for the Green Boys. He’s continuing his good work in his current stint and leading their line with confidence. Stewart’s clever movement in the final third and finishing ability make him a real threat for Maziya.
The 31-year-old striker knows how to sniff out goals, while his link-up play is really impressive too. Stewart will be Maziya’s go-to man for goals in the AFC Cup. His physicality and clinical finishing keep defenders on their toes.
Maldives’ star striker Naiz Hassan is another menacing figure upfront alongside Stewart for Maziya S&RC. The 26-year-old has quite a lot of experience in the AFC Cup, having played in multiple editions.
His experience and knowledge of playing in top competitions make him a formidable threat in this group. Naiz is a smart goalscorer, whose efficient link-up play and final product in the box makes it difficult to keep him quiet. Hassan will look to cause chaos alongside Stewart in attack, as his unpredictable style could help him torment opposition defenders.
Going an entire league campaign unbeaten wasn’t the only thing Maziya achieved last season. In 14 games, they only conceded six goals! That was not just because of their strong defensive line, but also because of the heroics of young goalkeeper Hussain Shareef. The 22-year-old is an excellent shot-stopper with the ability to really dominate his area.
His heroics in goal helped Maziya maintain the best defensive record in the league last season. Shareef has the ability to come up with clutch saves and possesses impressive reflexes. Maziya have to be defensively strong to advance from the group stages of the AFC Cup. To do that, they’ll need Shareef to be at his best and bail them out of trouble consistently.
What To Expect
Maziya S&RC have experienced the feeling of ‘so close, yet so far’ in the AFC Cup group stages way too many times. This time, they hope to change that emotion. With an experienced coach at the helm, the players should be more aware of how to win the one-off games.
They might have been put in a relatively difficult group, but the Green Boys are well-equipped to cause problems. With their unpredictable attacking style and sturdy, disciplined defensive layout, don’t be surprised if Maziya pop up with some shocking wins in Group D.