FC Goa battled to a 0-0 draw against much stronger opponents in Al Rayyan in their AFC Champions League debut. Coach Juan Ferrando must be proud of his team’s efforts. Read his thoughts below from the post-match press conference.
Coach a very good point and a historic point, as far as Indian football is concerned. How do you look back at the match? Your thoughts.
“A good point for us. We have a very good squad and everyone is aware of the quality of players we have. And going up against Laurent Blanc, 1998 world Cup winner, is always very difficult. But we are happy with this point. In my point of view, as a coach, we could improve more when we attack and when we are in attacking positions. In the AFC Champions league, it is important prepare for all the games and try to win all the points”.
FC Goa started very well in the first half. They moved and passed the ball around in the first 20-30 minutes. Al Rayyan fought back and piled the pressure up during the second half. Were you surprised the way you approached the game? Because there were question marks as to whether FC Goa can start with Al Rayyan’s intensity.
“I am happy with the way started the game. The plan was to control the space and in champions league it’s always difficult to keep the levels and we had played our last competitive game more than a month ago. For the players it was all about controlling the space. Once you control the space, you can move forward step by step in the game. I was very happy about how we did that in the first half. In the second half, it is important to work and control the game because Al Rayyan press really well, they press at the right time with correct positioning. But I think it’s good experience for our players and as a coach I can work with this in our training with similar press and that helps our players match the intensity in these games”.
With Indian clubs playing in Asia and in a competition like the champions league, what does this result mean to Indian football?
“I hope this is a good moment because now people will know about Indian football. 5-6 years you cannot talk about Indian football because it’s all about cricket in India. But now it is up to clubs to work on their academics, by working on young and future players and make them understand about the Champions league” told Juan Ferrando.
Laurent Blanc spoke about the defensive abilities of FC Goa and he mentioned that if they had scored the first goal, it would be a different result. What is your say about it? Was that your strategy going into the game, being more defensive?
“Yes but at the end you cannot plan everything because football is very difficult. Imagine if we conceded a goal in the 3rd minute, then we need prepare for Plan B. Of course, FC Goa works on 3 different plans depending on the situation but what’s more important is the players’ mentality, depending on the score, the timing and the psychology of the team. For instance in the second half, between minute 64 and 72 it was very difficult for us with Al Rayyan’s press as our players were tired and our wingers had to search for space. In such a case it is necessary to change the plan but I’m happy that they understand our step-by-step method of our plans. But it is necessary now to change when you have more options and the players know the problem and the solution to it”.
One of the great things that we saw today from your team was that they weren’t nervous at all. So much has been talked about first champions league for an Indian club, but on the pitch the players seemed to get it out of their minds and remain focused on the job. How did you prepare them for that from a mental perspective?
“In training sessions, we talk everyday about the opponents in the champions league after every evening session. And we talk about the quality of players we would be up against and how difficult it would be play against them. On the pitch you can see that all players are in good head space and the entire team knows all about the Champions league and the concentration that is required as a team. We know that one against one Al Rayyan is better than us but as a team we can show the football we can play. But I’m happy about how the team controlled their emotions because I saw our players one hour before kickoff. I understand that it’s normal and I am sure step-by-step we can be confident in the next 5 games in the same way”.
How was important the point from tonight’s game? How important was the point for players to believe in themselves?
“It’s important because it’s a positive result for us to prepare for the next game. But for me, it’s necessary to talk about the fact that we have 5 more games. Yes, we got the point, but now our focus is on Saturday, to improve our game attacking-wise. Yes, we are happy with the point but it’s also necessary to keep improving after each game” concluded Juan Ferrando.