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ISL- Indian Super League

Focused on KBFC game, but Odisha coach Sergio Lobera craves ISL trophy

Published at :April 18, 2024 at 11:28 PM
Modified at :April 18, 2024 at 11:28 PM
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(Courtesy : ISL media)

Gourav Samal

Lobera previously lifted the title with Mumbai City FC and alluded to it in the pre-match presser.

Odisha FC are all set to face Kerala Blasters FC in the first knockout match of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 at the Kalinga Stadium on April 19, 2024. 

Both teams will look to put their best foot forward and come out as a winner to cement their place in the semi-final stage. With home advantage, Odisha will undoubtedly enter the match as the favourites, but Kerala has been a lethal force this season. Although they have been a bit out of form in the last couple of weeks, playoffs are different to that of league stages.  

The pre-match press conference was attended by Odisha FC’s head coach Sergio Lobera and player Princeton Rebello, who replied to the queries of the media.

How Odisha FC fared in the season

No doubt, this is Odisha FC’s best season so far in terms of their performance, since its inception as a club in Bhubaneswar. When a question was raised about the club’s performance this season head coach Sergio Lobera replied, “Yes, we are having a big game coming up. But if you ask me to do an analysis of this season, then I would say, I’m very happy with my club’s performance.

“I’m very proud of my players. They showed everyone that we are ready for big challenges. We reached the final of the Super Cup. Yes, we lost in the final, but we fought till the last minute.

“Even in the AFC Cup, we reached the next round. And not to forget we defeated the current Shield Champions in the Group stage to emerge as the winner of the group. In terms of going for the ISL Shield, I would say, we did an amazing job. Although we had our chances of finishing in the top two, still I would say, we need to be proud of ourselves, because performing with the same intent in different competitions through the same season is not an easy task”, he added.

Focus on tomorrow’s game 

If Odisha wins tomorrow’s game, they get into the semi-final stage. Sergio looked determined by their performance in the previous matches. He said, “We will now compete for the ISL trophy. For now, we just need to put focus on tomorrow’s game against a very good team. It won’t be an easy game, hopefully, we can win it and reach the semi-final stage where we will face the team who won the Shield. There we can again show everyone that we are ready to compete against any team, in any competition.” 

Advantages of playing in Kalinga 

Odisha FC will have an advantage of playing the knockout at their home ground where they are undefeated in the entire season of ISL. Their coach also looked quite excited about the clash at home ground, as he stated, “It’s an advantage for us to play at home. We just need to be ready to play in the extra time if the game proceeds to that stage. Even we need to be ready for the penalties.

“We know in four games, we can get a trophy. That’s why the players are ready, and we all are very excited about it. Who knows, in four games, we can finish as the champions of the ISL. Mohun Bagan got a shield for the first time in their history, maybe we can also get the trophy for the first time in the history of ISL.”

Experience of winning one trophy

Sergio has already won the ISL trophy with Mumbai City FC. He also looks determined to win it again with Odisha FC as he said, “Yes, I have the experience of winning the trophy. But I want to win it with Odisha FC. This was my target when I arrived at the club.

“Our pressure is different from that of our opponent in the match because for them it’s compulsory to win the trophy. It will be a disaster if they don’t win the ISL trophy. For us, it’s just the excitement of competing at this stage. Even my message to my players is to go and enjoy your moment,” he added.

Records won’t count

Odisha FC defeated Kerala Blasters in their previous encounter at the Kalinga Stadium. But the head coach said this is a different game and they need to start afresh. 

“Playoffs are different. This is different in terms of competition, mentality, and motivation for players, coaches, and the support staff as well. We need to forget what happened in the past. If we think, we have won a lot of games at Kalinga Stadium and can win it tomorrow as well, then it will be a big mistake.”

Motivation for the squad ahead of the match

Princeton Rebello, who was there at the press conference also looked confident about the upcoming match. He said, “It’s been a long season, and everyone has worked hard to reach this stage. Now we want to win the trophy as well. Yes, there have been ups and downs in the tournament for us as well but now the focus is just on the trophy.”

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