“So near yet so far” – this has been the story of Zico’s FC Goa, who despite being one of the strongest side of Indian Super League, missed the trophy narrowly in both of previous occasions.
In 2014 season, FC Goa were knocked out of semifinal by champions Atletico De Kolkata in tie-breaker, whereas, last year they lost the final against Chennaiyin FC as Marco Materazzi’s men made a late comeback to deny Zico’s army.
The legendary former Brazilian attacking midfielder, often dubbed as ‘White Pele’, has retained most of his star performers and brought in a number of fellow countrymen to strengthen his side in order to lift the championship in third attempt.
As mentioned above, The Gaurs have retained most of their men from previous season – veteran Brazilian defender Lucio is set to return as their marquee after a successful campaign. French cenre-back Gregory Arnolin is set to feature in his third successive season whereas Brazilian attacker Reinaldo, Rafael Coelho, defender Luciano Sabrosa and Spanish midfielder Jofre have been retained. However, they have brought in former Brazil international midfielder Richarlyson, loaned in Flamengo defender Rafael Dumas and also added midfielder Matheus Trindade and winger Julio Cesar to increase their squad options.
Talented youngsters of Indian football like Mandar Rao Desai and Romeo Fernandes have been retained along with goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani, defender Keenan Almeida, Raju Gaikwad and Debabrata Roy who were impressive in past. Indian international forward Robin Singh has plied his trade from Delhi Dynamos, goalkeeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury and defender Denzil Franco from Atletico De Kolkata and midfielder Pratesh Shirodkar, who spent his previous campaign with Mumbai City FC, have joined FC Goa as well. A few more names have also been added for their introductory ISL season – defender Sanjay Balmuchu, Fulganco Cardozo, goalkeeper Sukhdev Patil and midfielder Sahil Tavora are the chosen ones.
Zico, who also has an impressive coaching career, is experienced enough in Indian soil and have brought in players from his country whom he thinks are capable of lifting the trophy. They are balanced in every department with a handful of options. It will be interesting to watch how the Brazilian uses his options in order to conquer the silverware.
Goalkeeping is a concern for FC Goa as Kattimani is inconsistent and error-prone, whereas Subhasish, although performed exceptionally well for Atletico De Kolkata in the inaugural campaign, was out injured for the entire last season. He will need some more time in order to get fit and back to his best. Also, Zico has no option but to head for the tournament without playing any friendly at home as their fixtures against DSK Shivajians on Thursday and India U-19 a day later were cancelled. Zico badly wanted a game “so that the boys can get used to the weather and know each other’s play better,” but the Nagoa ground, where they are training at the moment, was not good enough for a competitive fixture.
Where They Can Finish:
FC Goa are one of the title favorites as they have upgraded a squad which itself was capable of winning the tournament. They are at least expected to finish in top four and qualify for the semis and capable to fulfill their title dream.
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Photo by Doha Stadium Plus