Salgaocar are the only team to collect full points in the group stages - Karim Bencherifa

On the eve of the second semi-final in the 2012 Federation Cup, caught up with Salgaocar head coach Karim Bencherifa...
In what was declared by many as the Group of Death comprising defending champions Salgaocar, big spending Prayag United, the impressive Pune FC and surprise package United Sikkim FC, Karim Bencherifa's boys progressed unscathed winning the maximum points so far. caught up with the Moroccan tactician who had guided Salgaocar last season to the top of the Federation Cup the season before.

On quizzed about the abhorrent pitch conditions in Jamshedpur where Salgaocar played all their matches, Karim was candid enough to say that it was bad but added that his side did well in the given conditions.

"Yes, the pitch conditions were bad as all the coaches had pointed out. However what is important is we have adapted well to the conditions and managed to win all our matches."

On the semi-finals being played in Siliguri, Karim was hopeful of a better playing surface but declared that the other two semi-finalists, East Bengal and Churchill Brothers would be at an advantage, no matter who reached the final as they had played their group matches there.

"Both us and Dempo have not played at Siliguri before, so pitch won't be a determining factor in the semi-final. However the other finalist, whoever that is, will be at an advantage as they have played their group matches here in Siliguri."

About his own team's performance, Karim was bullish in saying that the team had proved the critics wrong by their performance on the field. He felt that the team was written off, especially placed in the so called 'Group of Death' and were given little chance of progressing to the semi-final.

"No one gave us much of a chance so I am glad that the boys proved all the critics wrong. Even better. we are the only team to collect the full nine points even when placed in the [so called] Group of Death"

About his new recruits, Bencherifa was profuse in praising Anthony D'Souza who scored for them in all three matches. He was also happy with his two new foreign recruits Sean Rooney and Angel Guirado but was unsure who would get the nod to start in the all important match against Dempo.

"Anthony has been great and I am really proud of him. Both Sean and Angel have shown that they are gelling into the team well. I am not sure with whom I will start. That will depend on our tactical thinking."

On their opposition Dempo, Karim certainly knew of the quality at the disposal of the I-League champions but was hopeful that if they played well, they had every chance of beating them.

"Dempo are a great team. They are the I-League champions. We are pretty familiar with them too as they are with us. We played two friendly matches with them and both were close encounters. I am sure with the right mindset we can certainly beat them. We have showed we are scared of no one," he concluded.

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