| Beto |
Kochi: Dempo Sports Club will have a battle on hand when they take on Sporting Clube de Goa in the second semi-final of the Federation Cup, here, on Thursday.
This all-Goan semi-final will be a battle between two of the youngest squads in the tournament, who had contrasting routes to the last four.
Group D winners Dempo only qualified via goal difference as they finished level on points with Mohammedan Sporting. This means they are in the semis despite only beating a couple of second division teams like Bhowanipore and United Sikkim Football Club.
But Arthur Papas’ side did show great character to come from behind in the opener against Bhowanipore and then in the group decider, they got the clean sheet against Mohammedan Sporting after some resolute defending.
Dempo have struggled for goals in the I-League, but the signing of enfant terrible Tolgay Ozebe has provided the much-needed quality to their attack with the Australian bagging a brace on his debut against United Sikkim.
The Dempo team are in a transition after Armando Colaco left. Coach Papas has brought in lot of youngsters but the fulcrum remains one and only Beto. Probably the best foreigner to play in India, Beto initially was having problem with Papas’ way of functioning. But things have settled down more or less and much will depend on how this man performs on Thursday.
Sporting Clube, on the other hand, are in the semi-finals for the first time since 2006. They progressed from the Group of Death despite losing the opening game 3-5 against Bengaluru FC. They bounced back by becoming the first team to beat East Bengal in this competition since 2011 but their fate wasn’t in their own hands going into the final group game against Rangdajied.
They won 2-0 and then East Bengal’s 2-0 success over Bengaluru saw them reach the semi-final for the first time since 2006.
Foreigners Ogba Kalu and Boima Karpeh have been immense going forward, but India international Victorino Fernandes has been their show-stopper as he scored in each of three group games.
Sporting Clube come into this last-four clash as clear favourites. After all they are more consistent unlike Dempo. A proof of that is the fact that Oscar Bruzon’s side have 11 more points than Dempo in the I-League and placed eight spots higher. Sporting Clube have also been tested more in the Federation Cup, but Dempo would relish the underdogs tag.