After a good debut performance in the AFC Champions League 2021 where they finished third in their group among top West Asian teams, the Gaurs went on to clinch the Durand Cup 2021 by beating Mohammedan SC in the final. Since then FC Goa is having a difficult time. In their first match this season they were defeated 3-0 by Mumbai City FC. They lost 3-1 to Jamshedpur FC in the next game. FC Goa faces Northeast United in their next match as both teams are in search of their first win of the season.
The first two fixtures against Mumbai City FC and Jamshedpur FC were very tough fixtures for Goa, so when you look at that as a positive that you got two really tough fixtures out of the way, now you can be looking at getting into a run or any positives that you can take from the fixtures?
“Our focus is to get three points tomorrow. We are more thinking about the past games, we’ll learn from the matches against Mumbai and Jamshedpur, we learn about the younger core in our team, we learn with time. But now next is more things in our mind to get three points tomorrow.”
After the two games and whatever is happening outside with the training ground incident, how is the morale in the team altogether looking heading into the third match?
“Thinking about that, these are external problems. We are very upset because it’s our training center for both the first team and the age-group teams. But this is the life of sportspersons and more specifically football. For high performances, it’s very important that we focus on our goals despite what’s happening around us. It’s a big problem, but we can’t lose energy because it’s not possible for us to do anything.“
“We have a lot of young players in the squad. They learn when the results are not good and the most important thing is to wake up every day and continue working. I think it’s the mentality of the club, and then my point of view is to improve day by day. There are more strong teams, it’s good for us. It’s a good challenge to change and to work in this situation”
Northeast United FC also are without a win. How difficult will it be against them and in which department do you think you can out-do them?
“It’s a difficult game, as both the teams didn’t start the league with good results. I trust in my game plan for our team, I also hope they are thinking of the best plan for us and then step by step, minute by minute that we are more comfortable using the pitch and not scared about anything and then sure we have opportunities. Now my point of view is at the end of the game, we have to get the three points.”
Are you happy with Airam Cabrera’s performance in the last match?
“Yeah, I’m very happy with all the players and it is not only about any one player. In my point of view, the performance is not good. Of course, the most important for me is to find the best moment for Airam. He’s joined with the team, late with the rest of the team is the first time the team was working in September. In pre-season, also October.“
“He’s working hard on the pitch with the team and also his character is good because he wants to improve every day and this is the most important thing for me.”
The team has played two matches and conceded six goals while scoring just one goal. Do you think that the absence of a key player like Brandon Fernandes in the midfield is one of the factors why the team is not shaping up well in the attack?
“You know what, those six goals that we conceded are because of some mistakes in set-pieces. This is not the solution. Of course, Brandon is a key player but he has an injury and it will take some time for him to recover and be ready to play. But another thing is, we have 29 players in our squad.”
“The problem is not because one player is in or out of the squad or one player is in the lineup or in substitution. We are a team. We have a lot of responsibilities also in goals in attack and in goals conceded, this is the most important thing.”
Do you think this year it will be more difficult for teams to make it to the top four? Because almost all teams seem to be much stronger than last year? Do you think the gap between teams is much more narrow this time around?
“Of course, if you watch the games last season, for example, the scores were 1-0, 1-1, 2-1 all the time. But this season it is 4-2, 6-4, 5-1. Maybe the scores at this moment reflect what you know about the teams this season and also because it sees a lot of mistakes in the defense. But I’m not comparing this season with the last season, this is my point of view.“
“The league is developing day by day and it is not the same as last season. Of course, if you are working for the first time with one team, it’s more or less new, compared to when you have a lot of time in the same situation and have previous experience, maybe you need to find some details, and maybe this is a reflection of the games also.”
Dheeraj, how different is this current team compared to the one that you had last year that played in the ISL and the AFC Champions League and played such a wonderful game in the sense that the team conceded very few goals. But in this season in the first two games, six goals are conceded already. So what do you think is going wrong and are you confident that that FC Goa will soon start performing or start showing its true colors?
“It’s like is a start of the season for us, we just played two games. Yeah, of course, the result can’t lie, we didn’t do well. We didn’t beat our opponents in the first two games and when you don’t do that it costs you. But still, we have a lot of games coming up and tomorrow is a new day. We’ve been looking for our first win and we trust the process and the player. We do have quality players, so it’s just the beginning like we have to keep on fighting, and hopefully, we will perform, at an optimum level in the next game to continue with the performances.”
Dheeraj, if you leave aside the results in the first two games this season, do you think the squad is stronger than last season?
“I do believe this team is stronger than the team we had last year because we almost have the same squad with some new arrivals and we have many young players coming up adding more qualities to the squad, as I said it’s just the beginning of the season, so we are working as a team and we are working as a unit. So of course we believe in our process. So I believe that we have a strong team and hopefully, we are just looking forward to winning more games this season.”
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