FC Goa became the first-ever team from India to participate in the Asian Champions League. But after a humiliating 4-0 defeat against Persepolis FC on match-day four, the Gaur’s chances of progressing further into the next rounds are almost nil. Talking before tomorrow’s game against Al-Rayyan, coach Juan Ferrando opens up about the psychological impact of losing games, the difference of playing in the Champions League as compared to the Indian Super League, and more.
When asked about the injuries and fitness levels of the players, coach Juan Ferrando was quick to overlook this and highlighted the need to be ready for the last two games. “We know it, and I always repeat this, in twenty days, six games are very difficult. Of course for our squad, it’s the same problem as the other squads. Now we have injuries of course, and the ones who don’t have injuries are very tired. But for us now the last two games are very important, to prepare the plan, to be strong psychologically. But again it’s a pleasure to participate in this competition and we want to do our best on the pitch in the next two games.”
A few eyebrows were raised after Naveen Kumar was picked over first-choice goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh for the game against Persepolis, Juan was questioned as to whether Dheeraj was injured or it was a tactical decision, to which he replied “It was a tactical decision, of course, we prepared a plan. When the plan is not successful because the score is not good or maybe other problems exist, it is necessary to make substitutions. It is my job to make decisions for the team, and in the end, this is the truth, and not because there were other problems. Only sometimes, for example in the last game Edu, Princeton had injuries. But 90% of the changes (substitutions) are tactical decisions.”
Growing up in Spain, Juan watched a lot of footballers play and one of them was Al-Rayyan’s current coach Lauren Blanc. When asked how he feels about facing Blanc, Juan Ferrando responded “ When I was fifteen years old, my dream was to participate in the first team, and in the future to become a professional footballer. I remember he won the World Cup in 1998 and now we are against him, as he’s the coach of Al- Rayyan. This is life. These people are at a very high level, participating in World Cups, Champions League. They have played for teams like PSG, Chelsea. So, for us, it’s a great opportunity to play against them.”
It is never easy to lose a football game, and losing a game by four goals to nil affects the players and the coaches alike. It has a psychological impact going into the next game. Juan addressed the same by talking about how it personally affects him. “Firstly it’s about my psychology because when you lose 4-0, the last night I was talking to our Director Ravi because it was a difficult moment, but then it’s to know about why the score was not good and then explain to the players. To explain about the new plan and of course, it’s necessary to think (acknowledge) that it is our first time and the experience is very important, and of course, we can improve which is the most important thing. We can’t think that this is a big problem for us is and for our level, it is not possible to change the plan in this case, so I’m scared about the situation. No. I know we can improve, prepare a new plan, the players are ready. Then in this case I’m happy because I am sure our image will be better for the last two games.”
Juan Ferrando also talked about the differences he noticed in the Champions League as compared to playing in the Indian Super League (ISL). “It is very different. When you prepare for a game in ISL it’s very different than that in the Champions League. All the time I explain the intensity, the remake, and the tactical decisions are different. If you watch a lot of games in the ISL the plan for the teams, more or less for ninety minutes is the same. Here it depends on the moments when teams change tactically, it is necessary to read and prepare. Also, I think the focus and psychology and all the details are very important here.”
Finally, when asked about his views on tomorrow’s game against Qatari side Al-Rayyan, he said “Of course now it’s the second leg, it’s different. Firstly because the players are more tired as compared to the beginning, now after 10-12 days, there are a few problems as the players are tired, there are injuries. But for me it’s different, we play against a very good team. It’s very important though as Al- Rayyan will play with two new players, after the red cards, and they will have a lot of motivation, and they also know it’s very important. Surely it will be a difficult game, but different from the first leg.” – concluded Juan Ferrando