The last time Goa played the final of the Santosh Trophy, there were twelve teams in the I-League, it was a ten-month affair and Vasco Sports Club were playing in India’s premier football competition. Almost a decade has past since then, the I-League is now fighting for its survival, there is just one Goan team playing in the League and a sea of change has taken place in Indian football with legends like Robert Pires, Elano, Lucio, Alessandro Del Pierro and Zico playing and coaching on Indian soil. That’s how much Indian football has changed since Goa captain Felix D’Souza lifted the 2008-09 Santosh Trophy alongside Goan football stalwarts like Mahesh Gawli and Climax Lawrence.
Francis Fernandes and Marcus Mascarenhas, two players who were a part of the team that lifted the trophy that day would know the enormity of the situation at hand. Goa to be honest, haven’t been in cruise control mode in any of their matches. A scrappy 2-1 win over Meghalaya in their opening match was followed by dull draws against Bengal and Chandigarh respectively. However the last gasp win over defending champions Services would give them plenty of confidence going into this crucial game. The biggest concern facing Goa coach Mateus Costa has been him having to constantly chop and change his side. He has already used three goalkeepers in the four matches. The defensive combination has changed in all the games and the midfield too has undergone changes due to injuries to Leny Pereira and Francis Fernandes in the last game who both look doubtful starters tomorrow. Credit to coach Costa and the Goan boys though, whoever has come in has given their heart out for the side. “ The boys are looking forward to the semi-finals tomorrow. The win against Services has given plenty of confidence to the boys and we would hope to avenge our semi-final defeat last year and play the final in front of our home fans” said Costa just before his team lined up for their practice session.
Goa is likely to persist with Bruno Colaco in goal and a final decision on the fitness of Leny Pereira and Francis Fernandes will be taken tomorrow after consulting the physio. Utility man Peter Carvalho would feature in defense or midfield depending on Leny’s fitness with Cajetan Fernandes, Glan Martins, Latesh Mandrekar and Brian Mascarenhas making up the rest of the midfield. Young star Liston Colaco will likelihood start alongside Aaren D’Silva up front.
Kerala on the other have had a relatively easy ride to the semis, qualifying with a game to spare. Striker Jobby Justin, Asharudeen and captain Usman P in attack would be looking to exploit the Goan defence with their pacy runs and sharp finishing while Asharudeen would look to provide all the ammunition from midfield. A win for Kerala would put them in the final for the first time since the 2012-13 season when they lost to Services on home soil.
Meanwhile GFA President Elvis Gomes has exuded confidence that Goa will put up a good show tomorrow. “We lost in the semi-finals last year but we hope to better our performance this time and hopefully reach the final and win the Santosh Trophy in front of our home fans. Kerala are an extremely good side and have played good football so far but our boys are focussed and will give their hundred per cent tomorrow. I also urge the fans to get behind our team and be Goa’s 12th man”
In the other semi-final, Bengal will take on Mizoram at the Bambolim Stadium at 1500 hours. Bengal, winners of the Santosh Trophy for a record 31 times will look to put it across Mizoram who will be fresh from their 5-1 rout of Railways two days back.
Semi-Final 1: Bengal v Mizoram (15.00 IST, Bambolim Stadium)
Semi-Final 2: Goa v Kerala (19.00 IST, Bambolim Stadium)
Both matches will be telecast live on DD Sports.