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Habibur: Can win trophy

Calcutta: Bengal captain Habibur Rehman Mondal said his side were among the favourites to lift the Santosh Trophy this year. Bengal, 29-time champions, last won the title in April 1999.

The Indian Football Association (IFA) announced the 20-member squad on Thursday. Bengal kick off their campaign in the Santosh Trophy on June 2 in Tamil Nadu.

Asked if he was happy with the squad, Habibur said: “I have always said that only the players who want to play for Bengal should be included in the squad. We have a good combination of youth and experience… I’m happy with the squad.”

The Mohun Bagan defender said this year’s squad was the best in the last four years. “It’s a young side but I’m hoping for the best. I think this is Bengal’s best squad in four years and we hope to win the title,” he said.

Bengal got direct entry into the last-eight league stage as last year’s semi-finalists. They are clubbed in group A with defending champions Punjab and two qualifiers from the cluster stage.

Coach Raghu Nandy said there was no pressure on him despite Bengal’s lacklustre performance in the last few years.

“There’s no additional pressure on me… I’m happy with the squad. It’s the best squad from our limited options,” Nandy said.

Announcing the squad at the Bagan tent, the venue of the practice session, IFA secretary Utpal Ganguly said: “We have had no success after 1999. But I can see the desire and the enthusiasm in the boys. We hope Bengal will return with the trophy this time.”

The squad has been bolstered by the inclusion of two players from outside Bengal — P.C. Lalawmpuiya and Denson Devadas.

Bengal will practise at the Bagan ground on Friday morning before leaving for Chennai. Incidentally, Bengal won their last Santosh Trophy in Chennai.

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