The Blues finished off their AFC campaign in style, with a big victory.

Bengaluru FC ended their final game of the AFC Cup 2021 with a 6-2 hammering over Maziya S&RC. Despite the win being inconsequential for this particular campaign, it was a much-needed one for the club, which had witnessed a a disappointing phase over the last couple of years. Following the game, the Blues’ head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli spoke in the post-match press conference.

After not scoring in the first two group stage matches of AFC Cup 2021, it was a relieving sight for the Blues’ supporters who were long overdue in terms of witnessing such a vintage performance. In other words, goals from Udanta Singh, Cleiton Silva, Leon Augustine, Sivasakthi Narayanan and Bidyashagar Singh collectively led to a breakthrough performance; one desired by both the team and their fans.

Reflections on the performance

“First of all, I think it was a great game. We played good football from the first second. As I told you in the press conference before, we had a grace period. We started off with the qualification (second preliminary round) against Nepal (Tribhuvan Army FC). I think we did better every time,” Marco Pezzaiuoli began.

“Also this time, one good thing was our young players. It is difficult to put one player on the top today. But Udanta was the player of the match. He was hardworking especially in the beginning along with Cleiton. In the second half, two new strikers as well,” he quipped.

“I’m very happy. It’s not easy when you have no chance to go to the next round. But we know why we don’t [didn’t] go. But again, great game, great football, very nice offensive football, very good high pressing, counter-pressing, top defending, creating a lot of chances and also scoring goals at a high level. Top for the young team and big congratulations to the team and staff,” he added.

The impact of the win

The tactician was also posed with a question on two conflicting results for Indian football on the same day; ATK Mohun Bagan advancing to the next stage and Bengaluru FC being knocked out. He was asked about what this meant for the country.

“Of course, every experience outside of the country helps to develop Indian football. With the AFC Cup, we showed that we had good young and experienced players for the future; particularly today which was a great game,” the tactician responded.

“Indian football, of course, it helps for their league preparations. Today, there were some good players on the pitch and maybe they have chances for the future. I cannot say [speak] about Indian football. I am too young there. But I think in Indian football, based on what I saw in the games when I came to India, there’s a good quality of mixed; experienced and young players. I think football clubs invest more and more in young players which means development is coming. In the future, maybe not in one but two years, India can make steps higher.”

Udanta Singh’s thoughts on the combination of youth and experienced players

Bengaluru FC winger Udanta Singh accompanied the head coach to the press conference and shared his thoughts on the team’s gameplay, squad and recovery time compared to other teams in the group.

“I’m really happy we mixed up our team with some young and experienced players. It shows what the boys are capable of. It is good for the team and Bengaluru FC. We are fit enough to play game to game,” he expressed.

Future of Indian football

Marco Pezzaiuoli was questioned on his thoughts about the future of Indian football. This time, the tactician responded, “I think we are developing. Every time, it takes long. I cannot tell you if it will take five years, 10 years or even 20 years. But when you invest in young people, you get results every time.

“It doesn’t matter which country. We see every year, countries like Belgium and Holland invest in young players. At the end, something comes out of it. Now we have an Indian player (Sandesh Jhingan) at a Croatian club. It is the first step to Europe. I hope in the future, more players make such steps. Also, it is very important to give young players such experience to develop. It is very important for the country. But it takes time when you want to be at the top,” he said.

“Some other countries are still a step higher. South Korea in 2002 had a young team; they were young and hungry. Japan and China tried the same. Everybody is investing in youth. Youth is the future everywhere. Not only in football but everywhere; in every business,” he added.

Chinese Vs Indian football ecosystem

The 52-year-old was also asked about football in India and China in the press conference.

“China is a very big country. They invest a lot in merchandising and they’re top quality. For example, Paulinho; he went from China to Barcelona. These are different kinds of levels. In China, you have a really strong league and a lot of matches. Now they have invested a lot in the youth in the last 10 years. It is the right way to go. But still, you need foreign players. They always have new inputs and new foreign coaches.”

“Maybe from India, we’ll have a coach in Europe in the future. Maybe he’ll come back and share his experience with the Indian boys. This is how the world works; not just in the football business but among you journalists as well. When you go abroad, you learn different things and you bring them to your country. You should be open-minded,” he added.

Reason for benching Sunil Chhetri

Finally, Marco Pezzaiuoli was asked about Sunil Chhetri’s status. “No. Sunil is going to play for the national team as well. He played three games in nine days. As I told you, we have a great spirit and good young players in the team. Everybody’s doing well,” he concluded.

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