Calcutta: On the threshold of achieving one of their biggest goals — a place in the AFC Cup final — East Bengal conceded three goals in their I-League clash against Dempo SC.
Many would say that it’s perhaps the worst setback that East Bengal could have afforded at this juncture. But coach Marcos Falopa doesn’t belong to that group.
The 64-year-old Brazilian took Thursday’s 1-3 defeat in his stride and has assured the millions of red and gold fans that they will see a different East Bengal on Tuesday, at the Salt Lake Stadium, when they take on the might of Kuwait SC in the AFC Cup second-leg semi-final.
Falopa looked a little disappointed with the result, but he sounded very confident about his team’s prospects as far as the AFC Cup is concerned. Speaking after the match, Falopa roared: “There’s no need to panic. I know what to do… I know my job.” If you are optimistic, you would term that as confidence, not over-confidence.
Falopa stressed that setbacks are part and parcel of competitive sport. “Look, it’s my first defeat in India… We have been having a very stressful schedule in the past few weeks… We played matches in the night, we played matches under the scorching sun… We travelled for thousands of kilometres. That always tires a team. We have played in all kind of situations.”
Taking a dig at the critics, he added: “A lot might be said about the loss… There might be a lot of criticism. But I don’t mind that. See, if a team is playing professional football, it will face a loss at some point of time. So we lost today. I mean, it’s not that this is the first time that East Bengal have lost! So what happened is normal and there’s no need to press the panic button.”
Summarising the defeat, Falopa said: “It was not doubt a very good match… A tough match… Dempo played very well. They played better than us. They have a strong midfield and it clicked today. They organised themselves better than us and that is why we lost today. We conceded the goal so early in the match that it killed our rhythm.
“Dempo played better than us in defence and attack... More importantly, they took advantage of our mistakes. Plus we missed opportunities...”
When pointed out that almost a full strength team lost when a second string side were victorious against Lajong in their last match, Falopa said: “But that again is very much possible… That happens with the biggest teams… Even Brazil may lose in spite of fielding their best team. I changed the line-up a little… Well, everything didn’t turn out according to the plan. But that happens… The real problem with us today was that we played below our capabilities today.
Oozing confidence, Falopa insisted that his boys have the mental strength to recover from such a situation. “Yes, we have to sort it out… Whatever mistakes we committed on the field, we will definitely work on them and comeback stronger. We have the mental preparation to do that, I can assure you of that.”
Falopa indicated that he will ring in a few changes for the AFC Cup tie. “Yes, I may change some players… But I would like to insist that I’m proud of boys… And they are proud of me. It’s a long season.”
His message for the fans was simple: “Have patience… We will try hard and make you proud.”
But it was Dempo’s Beto who perhaps gave the best confidence-booster for the East Bengal die-hards. “Forget this defeat… East Bengal are a great team and we will all root for them against Kuwait SC. Have faith in your team, they will certainly do well.”