ISL 2015: Can Zico guide a revitalised but ageing FC Goa to title this season?
FC Goa, with a revitalized squad hand-picked by the Brazilian footballing legend Zico, is one of the pre-tournament favourites ahead of the second season of the Indian Super League.
By Sreya Mazumder
FC Goa, with a revitalized squad hand-picked by the Brazilian footballing legend Zico, is one of the pre-tournament favourites ahead of the second season of the Indian Super League. The Margao-based franchise had contrasting moments during the inaugural edition – from languishing at the bottom of the league table to nearly making it to the finals – and showcased the unpredictable nature of the beautiful game to perfection.
A Recap of Last Season
Zico’s side was slow out of the blocks. In spite of playing possession-based football with fluid attacking moves and swift exchange of passes, a lack of clinical finishing meant goals were hard to come by. The defence was particularly porous in the initial stages and the team lost four of their first six games in the competition.
A change in tactical approach and a switch of formation yielded immediate results. Buoyed by brilliant individual performances, FC Goa grew in confidence and not only qualified for the semi-finals, but also earned the distinction of the longest unbeaten run in the competition. It took a resolute Atletico de Kolkata with a near-impenetrable defence to stop Goa’s advance, but Zico’s side had already established themselves as the layman’s favourite.
Zico – The Ultimate Tactician
Zico, once called “White Pele” due to his exquisite play-making abilities, has had an illustrious coaching career. His keen eye for detail and penchant for setting up his teams to play free-flowing football, all the while achieving respectable results sets him apart from his contemporaries. In his second season with FC Goa, Zico has had complete autonomy in choosing his squad and remains confident of his team’s chances.
Zico has built his squad on the foundations of last season, with most of the new acquisitions possessing a certain Samba flair. Lúcio’s addition to the set-up as the marquee player is bound to bring in a steel to the defence which struggled in the early stages last season. The 37-year-old World Cup winner is unlikely to feature on too many occasions, but his experience could prove invaluable. The acquisition of Raju Gaikwad from Mumbai City FC allows Zico to field a top notch centre half pairing with Gregory Arnolin, who was Goa’s standout defender last season.
FC Goa also has one of the strongest midfields of the competition on paper. Pronay Halder, the youngster who was forced out of last year’s tournament due to injury, will be competing with Atletico Paranaense product Jonatan Lucca. Jofre Mateu brings with him Championship-winning mettle from Atletico de Kolkata. Jofre’s defensive abilities perfectly complement Bikramjit Singh’s box-to-box abilities and along with former Chennaiyin FC midfielder Denson Devadas, Zico has a diverse, yet tactically astute midfield at his disposal.
Further forward, Romeo Fernandes and Mandar Rao Desai are arguably two of India’s finest wide forwards. If the pace and guile demonstrated by these two last year are any indication, fans of FC Goa will be in for a treat this season. A sterling passing range, excellent ball-control and an ability to finish chances – these two are FC Goa’s most potent attacking options.
FC Goa had a surprisingly underwhelming pre-season in the UAE, winning just once in their four matches. A thorough revamp of the squad suggests the new acquisitions might take time to settle down, which could once again adversely affect Goa’s chances in the early stages of the tournament. FC Goa also has a host of key players on the wrong side of 30, with the squad’s average age pushing the 30-year mark. This seemingly insignificant fact could play a huge role in a competition like the Indian Super League, which has a lot of travel and low recovery time between matches.
The fact that FC Goa does not have a proven centre forward among their ranks could also hurt their chances, in spite of having as many as six strikers on paper. Unless Thongkhosiem Haokip, who netted seven times in 18 appearances in the 2014/15 I-league campaign, or Darryl Duffy, the Scotsman who once turned out for Swansea City steps up, finishing may turn out to be a sore issue for Zico’s side.
Luis Xavier Barreto is expected to start in goal, with Debabrata Roy, Gregory Arnolin, Raju Gaikwad and Narayana Das forming the defensive line. Denson Devadas, Bikramjit Singh and JofreMateu could form the midfield three, with Romeo Fernandes and Mandar Rao Desai flanking Darryl Duffy on either side to round up the line-up.
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