By Rajarshi Chakrabart
Hero Super Cup quarter-finals slots were confirmed as 8 teams found their opponents with 5 I-Leagues teams making it to the quarterfinals due to start on Sunday.
Bengaluru FC, FC Goa and Jamshedpur FC are the only ISL teams left in the competition have their tasks cut out as I-League teams have proved to be a handful for cash-rich ISL teams as champions Chennaiyin FC, FC Pune City, Mumbai FC and Kerala Blasters were all dumped out of the competition by I-league teams.
In the battle of “haves” against the “have-nots”, the I-League teams have managed to turn the odds against quality opponents of ISL sides.
Bengaluru and FC Goa have looked a class apart among I-League teams and would be starting as favorites to make it to the semi-finals.
The two Kolkata giants East Bengal and Mohun Bagan have also featured in the semi-finals, as East Bengal faces tricky Aizawl FC and Mohun Bagan is due to meet another northeastern side Shillong Lajong FC.
Mohun Bagan’s late resurgence in the I-League was mainly due to Dipanda Dicka’s scoring form as I-League’s top scorer has already found his scoring boots in the super Cup scoring a brace against Churchill Brothers in their opening game.
Mohun Bagan’s midfield has also been effective as Cameron Watson, Yuta Kinowaki and has been effective in controlling the game in the central pitch to hold possession and orchestrate attacks through the wings as Faiaz and Nikhil Kadam has been impressive down both flanks.
Mohun Bagan’s Kolkata rival East Bengal too have been impressive in their opening game against Mumbai City FC as East Bengal’s midfield duo Katsumi and Al Amna has been in dominant alongside Kevin Lobo’s quality on the ball.
Laldanmawia Ralte and Chullova have provided quality crosses down the flanks. The only weak link stays in Eat Bengal’s armory is their slow center back duo of Eduardo and Gurwinder, who can be slow at times and can give away unnecessary fouls just outside the 18 yards box giving opponents free-kicks in interesting positions.
Jamshedpur FC and FC Goa face-off in another semi-final as two ISL sides face off in an enticing encounter as Jamshedpur FC will have to play out of their skin to stop FC Goa’s free-flowing attacking football led by Ferran Corominas, ISL’s top scorer with 18 goals.
FC Goa has a potent attacking force with Corominas and Boumous playing upfront while Mandar and Brandon Fernandes provides width and quality down the flanks. Edu Bedia has also been instrumental in synchronizing FC Goa’s attacks as the midfielders control the game beautifully constructing attacks with his smart ball distribution.
I-league runners-up NEROCA FC faces the strong challenge of Bengaluru FC and would be fancying their chances after beating a strong Kerala Blasters side to storm into the quarter-final.
An enticing week awaits Indian footballing fans as teams from two leagues clash in the opening season of Hero Super Cup as several battles within the battle unfold in the dramatic knock-out championship.