4 games ago, you would’ve have billed FC Goa as a team struggling to survive in the highly competitive Indian Super League.
Once they beat Delhi Dynamos FC comprehensively in an away game, you would’ve have billed them as plucky upstarts of the league.
You would’ve been sceptical about their future after that game. This sounds eerily similar to their opponents today Northeast United FC.
Northeast United were languishing bottom of the table when they came up against the league leaders in their last game. Since they scored 3 goals in 29 minutes against the southerners, they can now be labelled as the new plucky upstarts.
There was a difference, however. Northeast United FC beat Chennaiyin FC at home while FC Goa’s trial by fire happened away from home. This little difference can turn out to be crucial in the upcoming match. Do Northeast United FC know how to churn out a result when the fans are not with them? Can they balance attack with defence as is required in an away game?
FC Goa’s Zico Should Be Able to Counter the Threat of Massamba
If these questions are baking your noodle imagine this. Northeast United FC won that game against Northeast United FC literally on the back of Massamba Lo Sambou, the towering centre back.
They lofted balls in and Chennaiyin FC couldn’t cope with the power of Massamba. Massamba was the surprise difference in that game and he won’t be a surprise any longer. Zico is a wily old manager who’ll have a plan to neuter Massamba’s set piece threat.
What I’m getting at is that it’s not like Northeast United FC have their attack sorted out entirely. You can’t depend on set pieces to win you games. I’ll never be a proponent of that kind of a game because I think there’s too much chance involved.
Will the lady luck smile on Northeast United FC again when they try to use set pieces? I don’t have to tell you that I prefer the older Northeast United FC – the team that used short passes and played the ball on the floor. Sure, they should mix it up with Massamba but if they rely solely on set pieces, they may come undone in this match.
Massamba’s Defending Could Be a Liability
In addition, I’m sure you missed Massamba making mistakes in his primary job i.e. defending. Andre Santos, Robert Pires (if he plays), and Romeo Fernandes will make a mickey out of Massamba if he defends like he did in the last game.
Even though FC Goa came off as plucky upstarts initially I saw that their game had always been good and that they’d only started reaping dividends for it then. However, after stringing together a 5 match unbeaten streak, FC Goa are no longer plucky upstarts.
They have a 5 match unbeaten streak and have shown attacking consistency. Their fans will now expect them to dispose of the new plucky upstarts in Northeast United FC. I know I do.
Zico Lauds Consistency & Home Support
In fact, in his pre-game press conference, Zico said that his team is doing better because of that consistency. With the same players turning out day in day out, it’s no surprise that they’re playing so well together. His exact comments:
When we have the chance to play the same team, same group and same formation over a period of time, we can see good results. The guys are playing together more now. They’re more compact and the tiredness is much less. That’s why the results have been good. This is the fruit of our initial preparation. And as I’ve said multiple times already, we have 27 players, each one ready to contribute, and when the chance presents itself, they show what they’re worth.
FC Goa need to win this game, make no doubt about it. They’ll be the team forcing the issue while Northeast United FC will sit back and try to hit them on the counter. This strategy hasn’t worked for them throughout this season. Will it today?
FC Goa need to win this game purely because this is their last chance to leverage their home support in the league, unless they get through the knockout stages. After this game, their run in looks daunting as they play Atletico De Kolkata and Chennaiyin FC away. Zico touched on their home support too saying:
I hope that this won’t be the last game we play here for this season. I hope we have at least one more chance. It has been amazing. We love this ground and the crowds who come in to support us. They add the extra man to our squad. We are looking to honour the fans by giving it our all. We just want to give this gift to them. I’ve told my players what this crowd means and that we should do this for them.
Be Calm & Ricki Herbert
Ricki Herbert’s comment were exactly opposite of what the defiant Zico said. Herbert is trying to keep his players’ feet on the ground by downplaying their last good result.
We’re just looking at the Goa game as another fixture. It’s a game we want to win.
However, this doesn’t mean that he didn’t praise his players for their performance in the last game. He praised them profusely in fact.
I thought we were terrific in the last game. We played probably the best team in the league and it was a very convincing result for us. We’re very pleased to be here in Goa and we look forward to another three points.
His team will be up against it in this game but if he can pull out another surprise out of his managerial hat, they may be able to get some points from this game as well.
FC Goa’s Bid for 2nd Spot; Northeast United FC’s Bid For 3rd
If FC Goa can win, they’ll do their chances of qualifying for the next phase of the tournament a world of good. They can go above Atletico De Kolkata who drew their last game to the 2nd spot in the Indian Super League.
If Northeast United FC can continue their resurgence then they can actually topple their opponents for today to take the 3rd spot in the league. Northeast United FC improved their GD greatly with their last win. They’ll be looking to continue doing that in this game as it may be crucial come the last round of games.
Their last 2 games are much easier than FC Goa’s too. They take on Kerala Blasters FC away and Mumbai City FC at home. Their final game has the potential for 3 points too and they may even get something against Kerala Blasters FC. So, 3 points are not absolutely vital for them.
For this reason, you can expect them to be careful in this game while FC Goa will try to force the issue as I mentioned above. I wonder if Zico will play Robert Pires. I hope he does because they may need his vision to control the midfield battle and nullify the high intensity press of Northeast United FC.