Photo Credit: FC Goa twitter
The Gaurs finished third in the group stage as they bow out of the tournament.
FC Goa lost to UAE outfit Al-Wahda by 2-0 as Henk ten Cate’s side progressed to the next round. Their fate was already decided when the Emirati side had defeated group toppers Persepolis in their previous fixture.
For FC Goa, the side was for the first time playing with an all-Indian lineup, as the entire foreign contingent, including both players and coaching staff was sent back home keeping in view the threat of the rising pandemic in the country. And the team was up against a side with their strongest playing eleven on the field, consisting of their foreign players of course.
The match once again turned out to be the way the entire campaign of the Gaurs was- the team slogged hard and defended in numbers and had attacking opportunities too, which they couldn’t capitalise upon and sunk to defensive errors despite their valiant efforts.
The entire tournament for the Gaurs has been all about defending and Dheeraj Singh turned out to be the biggest gem for them.
The Gaurs faced 29 shots on target in the tournament- more shots on target than any other team in the tournament, but only 10 teams have conceded lesser goals than them. Without a doubt, this could not have been possible without Dheeraj’s brilliance under the bars. The India U-17 world cupper has made more saves than any other keeper in the campaign, amounting to 20!
FC Goa’s campaign, although unfortunately went winless- despite the fact that they came close to winning on at least two occasions- both against Al-Rayyan, the team has made a decent mark in the tournament. The Gaurs became the first team in the tournament history to draw their first two games in the competition 0-0.
Unlike in the Indian Super League, FC Goa could not hold possession much in the tournament and had an average of 41%, much lower than that in the ISL. This shows the fact that Indian teams have to learn a lot more to play flair kind of football, especially when under constant pressing and physical challenges. Except for two penalties, rest of the goals conceded by Goa came from defending errors from Indian defenders, 6 goals in total. And five of these came from losing possession near or in the final third of the pitch.
Brandon Fernandes came out as another great positive for the Gaurs in the tournament. While FC Goa scored only two goals in the group stage- both were assisted by Brandon.
Before the start of the tournament, a lot of fans raised their eyebrows upon Juan Ferrando’s decision to drop Igor Angulo and Alberto Noguera out of the squad, but the Spanish manager knew what he was doing- he decided to get the best possible backline and his decision worked well. Edu Bedia, James Donachie and Ivan Gonzalez, formed a sturdy backline that helped Goa hold the pressure from the pressing gameplay of the opponents, while helping the side build from the back. The foreign backline together almost had an average passing accuracy of 83%. Seriton Fernandes also had a great role in propelling the attack through the right wing as he had 22 crosses in the tournament, and his speedy runs across the right flank was a constant headache for the opponent defence.
Goa’s maiden outing in the AFC Champions League has taught that in terms of quality, the nation has a long way to go- and simply the foreigners cannot be relied upon to do well in the tournament where the local players make the greatest impact. For the Indian football, the Gaurs attractive style of football was always a benchmark- a kind of football that the fans expect from the Indian team, but to maintain this kind of game against top notch sides , the players will individually need to improve and Goa’s performance in the league rightly proves this. The team performed well largely and kept the attackers on bay, but they made mistakes on certain occasions and sadly in the end, all that matters is the end result. For Indian football to improve, they can now follow what these clubs do to win games, and from this we can actually build to cut the gap in the gulf of quality from the big Asian giants.