Gokulam Kerala are currently second in AFC Cup Group D.

Gokulam Kerala FC are set to play Bashundhara Kings in their last Group D fixture in the ongoing AFC Cup 2022. It’s a must-win match for the I-League 2021-22 winners to ensure qualification into the next round. All four teams in the group have won a match each and have the chance to make it into the next round of the tournament. Their last outing saw Vincenzo Alberto Annese’s men concede a 0-1 defeat to Maziya S&RC, which was disappointing after their incredible opening day win over ATK Mohun Bagan.

The Gokulam Kerala FC head coach shared his thoughts in the pre-match press conference ahead of the clash with the Bangladeshi outfit. He was also joined by defender Alex Saji who also took questions from the journalists in attendance. The duo gave their thoughts on the upcoming match, the challenges ahead and much more.

Here are the excerpts from the pre-match press conference for Gokulam Kerala FC’s clash against Bashundhara Kings in the AFC Cup 2022:

Approach for the upcoming match

Vincenzo Alberto Annese talked about the need to start the match against Bashundhara Kings on a positive note. He said, “We need to perform better for the starting approach. Need to enter with a totally different mentality from the first second and try to play more forward balls. We will try from the first second to attack and create chances. Need to give the best performance to win against this club. We lost a lot of energy between clashes with ATK Mohun Bagan and Maziya S&RC because the ATK team was amazing.”

“ATK had more quality, physical and experienced players than Maziya. The latter was concentrating more on possession and they made problems for us in attack through two players in Tana and Cornelius Stewart. Facing Bashundhara Kings will be totally different because the emotions in this game are so important for us. I wish my players will give their best in this final game for Gokulam Kerala FC.” he continued listing the qualities of both the previous opponents.

Scheduling challenges and needs to focus on winning

The tactician made it clear that the sole aim of the club is to win the next game. He does not want to pay any attention to the other fixture or any calculations ahead of the final matchday. In that regard and the frequency of matches, he said, “Honestly, I don’t care about any calculations or what will be in the future. I am only here to win. I just play to win, this is my intention.

“The guys, they will play, as I said this is the last game for many players and they know. For 21 days, we are playing seven games and every time we think we need to win. This was not easy for us. Mental preparation and physical preparation is not an excuse but reality. It’s the reality that we face.”

Message for players

Vincenzo Annese also mentioned that the team is highly motivated. The squad needs to move on from the disappointing defeat and give it all in the upcoming match. He said, “I don’t like to lose, my players don’t like to lose, no one likes to lose. It’s about aiming to reach the next level. The motivation to play in the last game and to give everything is so high.

“There will be a lot of emotion in this game, fighting for each ball. My message to the players will be that they need to deliver, and do their best. Maybe in the next season, we won’t be part of Gokulam Kerala, but it is important for us to finish with a win.”

Thoughts on Bashundhara Kings

Talking about the Bangladeshi outfit, Vincenzo Annese said “Bashundhara are here to win also of course. They have a quality player in each position. They are a bit more physical than Maziya S&RC which is more technically good. Many of their players (Bashundhara Kings) play in the national teams and they have been playing together for many years. This is one big plus for them.”

Alex Saji on motivation for players

The defenders also spoke about the levels of motivation amongst the team members after the previous defeat. “Last match we did not play well. In the next match, we have to follow the coach’s plan and move on. We know that we have to win this game. We have to move on and focus on the upcoming game.” he exclaimed.

Difference between competitions

He also mentioned that the level of football in the AFC Cup and the I-League is different. He explained further by saying, “It’s totally different. It is a good experience for everyone. We have 13 local players from Kerala and it is good for them. A big difference is there between AFC Cup and I-League. The speed and everything else.”

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