With the league stage now done and dusted, Goal.com has a look at what we learnt so far from the Federation Cup...
The Federation Cup semi-finals line-up has now been decided, with the engrossing group stage encounters now wrapped up.
As always, the four groups threw up plenty of surprises, with big spenders like Mohun Bagan and Prayag United not even staying in contention till the third matchday.
Goal.com has a look at 5 things we learnt from the quarterfinal league of the Federation Cup:
Pailan Arrows Are No Longer A Bunch Of Pushovers
Watchout For Papas' Boys...
Anyone who saw the defensive minded Arrows would agree, that though the players are very much the same as last season, the team on the whole is unrecognizable from the one that bored us to sleep until a few months back.
Arthur Papas has made them an adventurous unit, which believes in its attacking philosophy and the results are there for all to see.
They ran the show against the I-League defending champions Dempo SC, and were slightly unlucky to come away only with a point.
The youngsters then drew 2-2 against Mumbai FC, a draw which cost them in hindsight, as a 2-1 win over Shillong Lajong was not enough for them to make it through.
While their inability to make it through might be a dampner, looking at the bigger picture, Pailan Arrows will definitely not be pushovers this season.
Money Cannot Buy Success
The Big Signings Need Time To Bed In...
Prayag United and Mohun Bagan came into the competition, with a squad full of stars, however they did not even stay in contention till the third matchday, with the Mariners in particular looking completely clueless, as Santosh Kashyap watched his former wards at Air India, down to ten-men for close to 80 minutes, beat his side 2-0.
Sanjoy Sen’s misery might be at an end soon, as it is being reported that the club is already hunting for a more “high profile” coach, in keeping with their expensively assembled squad. However whether that move pays off, remains to be seen, as in the Federation Cup, they resembled a pack of strangers, which to be frank, they were!
Continuity Is Still The Key
Bencherifa's Side Have Been In Ominous Form...
Salgaocar, East Bengal and Dempo have all had their coach in place for a while, and it showed, as the Goan sides in particular, went through the group stages smoothly, showing that a team cannot be built in a day.
The trio also highlighted the fact, that it is important to work on the team during pre-season, especially on fitness aspects, since Indian footballers themselves do not look after their conditioning during the off-season.
Karim Bencherifa seems to have tweaked his tactics, playing a new, fast paced 4-3-3 this Federation Cup campaign, and his side has looked re-invigorated. East Bengal, though had to sweat to make it into the semis, one would have to agree that they are one of the favourites to enter the final given their impeccable record in the Federation Cup over the last three seasons.
Huge Gap Between I-League Heavyweight And Newcomers
A Huge Gap To Be Bridged...
Mohammedan Sporting and Kalighat MS brushed aside the other hopefuls, on their way into the main draw. However once there, they found the going to be tough, especially Kalighat, who leaked in 12 goals in the group stages, being completely overwhelmed by ONGC in particular.
Amongst the promoted sides too, while ONGC were the surprise package, almost making it through to the last four, United Sikkim were woefully out of their depth in the tournament, and have a lot of work to do, before the I-League season begins.
Pathetic Ground Conditions
Fancy A Few Tricks In This Mud Patch?...
More than the football, the pathetic ground conditions hogged the limelight, as the turf didn’t seem fit enough to host an inter-school tournament, let alone a competition of such prestige!
It also highlighted why India completely deserve their present FIFA rankings, as the infrastructure that is present is nowhere close to being good enough to promote football in the country, even though the All India Football Federation (AIFF) might try to justify themselves and their selection of venues.
Not only is playing 'pass-and-move' brand of football not a possibility in these conditions, but they also bring the safety of players into the question, as in such treacherous conditions, a player can get injured at any time.
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