The southerners will be up against an impressive NEROCA side who came second in the I-League.
Kerala Blasters gaffer David James is expecting nothing short of a ‘ fierce game’ against NEROCA FC in the final round of 16 game of the ongoing Hero Super Cup competition tomorrow (April 6, 2018) at 8:00 P.M.
“It’s definitely going to be a fierce game against a side who finished second in the I-League. We have seen some terrific matches in the qualifiers and the round of 16. We are also expecting a same type of game tomorrow. But, we have come here to win and we’ll try our level best to accomplish it”, James expressed in the pre-match press conference today.
“We want to stay alive in the tournament and see how far we can proceed”, he quipped.
The legendary goalkeeper summed up his journey with Kerala Blasters too.
“Since 2014 when I came to India first, the level of quality of Indian players have risen. Competition in ISL and I-League have gone up. We saw yesterday the impact of the Indian players and frankly saying, I’m not surprised at all seeing this.”
James hopes to progress to the next round in the tournament
“It’s always great to get a chance of playing against an I-League team. It’s a great opportunity for both teams to test each other”, the 47-year-old coach added.
Rishi Dutt, one of the prodigies who are being nurtured by the Kerala outfit shared his views as well.
“I’m really proud of sharing the dressing room with legends like David James, Wes Brown and other maestros. I’m ready to take the opportunity and give my 100% on the field. I’m learning every moment and still a lot left for me to learn from them.”
David James also heaped his praise for the youngsters and stated that the young boys are future of Indian Football and they should be nurtured well.
“Rishi is one of the upcoming players and these boys are the future of Indian Football. Their future depends on my decision. and I have to take a good care of them who are the future of Indian Football.”
Meanwhile, James gave full marks to the pitch and applauded the groundsmen, “The groundsmen deserve a huge applause for their job. It’s a terrific pitch to play a game. I thank the All India Football Federation to give us an opportunity to test each other on such a fantastic pitch. It’s just another testament to the growth of Indian football of late.”
On the other hand, NEROCA FC coach Gift Raikhan mentioned that his team are feeling the heat now as other two teams from the Northeast (Aizawl FC and Shillong Lajong FC) region have qualified to the next round.
“Football from the Northeast is growing from strength to strength. Aizawl FC and Lajong have already qualified for the next round and we have to emulate them. We are not feeling the pressure being pitted against Kerala Blasters but the pressure of getting the ticket to the next round.”
“We will give our blood on the pitch to get the job done tomorrow. We are the only Manipuri club in the I-League and we have won four out of nine awards in our debut I-League season itself. We have enough potential and we are feeling the fire in our belly now”, Raikhan expressed.
Gift Raikhan summed up their I-League journey and exuded that they’ll be happy to leave Bhubaneswar with the laurel to wrap the season up on a high.
Gift Raikhan had an impressive outing in the I-League this season
“The league is a different project, you have 18 matches to gauge yourself. In a knock-out game, you have to plan shrewdly and execute it meticulously on the pitch to overcome your opponent. We went very close to the championship but eventually, finished in the second spot whereas or goal was to finish within top three. Now, we are looking forward with more seriousness and we are here to win the title”, the Best coach of recently-concluded Hero I-League spoke.
Skipper Lalit Thapa, who missed a few games in the I-League owing to a prolonged injury, spoke highly about their opponents and mentioned that playing in the late evening will help them overcome the hot and humid weather of Bhubaneswar.
“They are a very good team. It matters little who’s going to play tomorrow and who’s not. We have to concentrate on our game to win tomorrow.”
“The humidity and heat is a concern. But playing in the late evening will be favourable to us”, Thapa chipped in.
Gift Raikhan told that at the end of the day, it’s a team game and a perfect team effort is necessary rather individual brilliance.
“We have Junior, Felix, Subash. We have Haitian international player Vorbe. They are masters of the game and they provide us with much-needed confidence. But, the game is 11v11 and we will have to play the game collectively to have the last laugh”, Raikhan signed off.
The match is scheduled at 8 PM and it’ll be beamed live on Star Sports 2/2 HD/1 Tamil and streamed live on Hotstar and Jio TV.