FC Goa will play in front of their home fans after 972 days.

After having their initial fire doused by a dogged display from current ISL trophy-holders Hyderabad FC, FC Goa look all set to battle it out with Jamshedpur FC. Alvaro Vazquez’s decisive penalty miss stung Carlos Pena’s men as they finished the game without a point. Last season’s League shield winners Jamshedpur FC themselves are in no fantastic form, as they come off the back of a slender 1-0 win against NorthEast United FC. With 90 minutes and two points separating the two sides, the match-up is shaping up to be an exciting one. 

FC Goa head coach Carlos Pena looked to be spirited and expects his team to reflect the same in their performance as he attended the pre-match conference.

Thoughts on his own comments from previous game

After a flurry of saves from Kattimani, Siverios’s breathless opener and some marvellous defending by the Nizams, FC Goa finished their last match bottom of the pile. When asked about his comments at the end of the game about Goa fighting and losing, Pena clarified:

“At the end of the game, I got the team together and I told them what I felt at that moment. I told them that it was alright, as we win some and lose some. I was very proud of their performance. Not happy of course, because when you lose you can’t be happy.

But I think this is the way we want to play against very tough teams as they were very organised and it was tough. Against Hyderabad, who are playing together for the last two years. We had chances to get at least a point, and we tried but we couldn’t get it. Of course, it’s important that the players know that this is the way because they were there and they competed. I think now it is a thing of the past. So we have to learn from it and look towards the next game.”

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On whether Dheeraj Singh will be involved against Jamshedpur 

Dheeraj Singh suffered a dangerous injury against Chennaiyin FC and Arshdeep Singh came on to replace him. The number 13 has since played in his stead in the Hyderabad game and looks set to start the one against Jamshedpur as well. Carlos Pena heaped equal praise on both and clarified the goalkeeper situation when he replied:  

“I cannot answer you right now as I have to talk with the players. I am very happy with Dheeraj and I’m very happy with Arsh (Arshdeep Singh) also. According to me, he played very well against Chennai in a difficult situation. We have two great goalkeepers and tomorrow I will take a decision.”

Thoughts on Jamshedpur’s performance this season

Aidy Boothroyd’s Red Miners have lost one of the vital cogs of their title-winning side in the twinkle-toed Greg Stewart. Stewart’s switch to Mumbai City has seen Jamshedpur suffer evidently in the creative department. Add to that the extra pressure on ISL debutant head coach Aidy Boothroyd to lead their title defence. FC Goa’s manager, however, has the utmost respect for the reigning league champions as he answered:

“They have changed the coach; they have lost some key players, but they have maintained the core of the team. I think that they are a very competitive team. They have a mixture of experienced players and strong characters in their squad, they’re very good from set-pieces which helped them win the shield last season. For me, that is more important. It is difficult to win the shield after 20 games. We respect them a lot but we know that our best version can beat anyone.”

Comparing the impact of home crowds in India to that of Spain

Carlos Pena plied his trade in one of the major hubs of European football when he played for Valladolid, Real Oviedo, and Getafe. The decorated Barcelona B graduate has seen what football means to people in Spain. However, he feels that in India, the cultural response is as integrated as anywhere else due to a number of reasons. Pena mentioned:

“I feel here in India, the matchday is a party and a festival. The fans are waiting for the matchday with their jerseys on, and I feel it’s very special. There are less games in the ISL as compared to the European leagues. The main purpose of the fans is to make the home stadium a fortress and to make the opponents feel that it is tough to play in Goa. I feel that the support of the fans is very important and that together we are stronger.”

On difference in approach towards Jamshedpur compared to other games

FC Goa have two wins and one loss from three games in the ISL 2022-23. Although a number of flaws have already surfaced in their style of play, the Gaurs’ tactician believes only ideology or playing style does not affect the result. He elaborated further when he said:

“The idea is always the same. We will keep playing our game, but of course you have to see the different aspects depending on the opponents you’re facing. Every opponent has some strengths and weaknesses. You try to give this information to the players. And from that you try to take advantage of the same.

He continued, “But an idea or style is not going to change any game. For tomorrow of course, we know that we have to focus a lot on  set-pieces, not letting them run and be careful of their long balls because it is a characteristic of Jamshedpur. But apart from that we are trying to be our best version and if it goes our way I think we will get the win.” 

On playing in front of fans

It has been 972 days since the Gaurs played in front of their faithful. Carlos Pena played in the same match which was a semi-final against Chennai. The veteran left-back has since returned to lead them at the helm of managerial duties and he’ll meet the fans as the coach. On being asked how it felt to be back in front of the crowd at Fatorda and what his message would be to the fans, the Spaniard replied: 

“Of course, it is going to be very special for me, and I did not think I would come back so soon with this team. So I’m very happy and excited about tomorrow. I will try to enjoy the game as much as possible and will expect the same from our fans because we never know what might happen tomorrow. So, we will try to make them happy and hopefully, in the end, we can celebrate together.”

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