Calcutta: A dismally organised tournament, sandwiched between the first and second phase of the National Football League (NFL), the TVS-Fiero IFA Shield is an interesting proposition for teams taking part nonetheless.
Of the eight in fray, five are vying for honours in the NFL, and it’s their chance to fine-tune strategy apart from trying out the untested players. Well, pride will also be at stake when Churchill Brothers face Indian Bank in Saturday’s group A clash at Salt Lake Stadium.
Before that, Vasco will meet Calcutta Port Trust in group B — an easier pool with Mohammedan Sporting and TFA being the other teams. Having drawn goalless with TFA Thursday, Vasco will surely fancy their chances against the local outfit, as a win will help them take a strong step towards the semi-finals.
Churchill and Indian Bank, however, face a sterner test with East Bengal and Tollygunge Agragami completing the all-NFL group A. Thursday’s 1-0 win over Tollygunge gave Indian Bank a good start.
“They (Indian Bank) are an unpredictable lot. It’s difficult to figure out how they’ll fare on a given day,” felt Churchill coach Marcos Pacheco, whose team has rediscovered the winning touch after a shaky start in the NFL.
“You can’t take things for granted against a team like that. We will take it one match at a time. This is an important meet since it gives us the chance to experiment and should also help us settle down as a team,” said Pacheco.
Churchill were held 1-1 by the bankmen in their NFL clash in Chennai. Indian Bank coach V.P. Sathyan said his team will go all out for a win since that will surely put them in the knockout stage. “We have made a winning start, which is very important, though I’m not satisfied with our standard of play.”
The former India defender said he is treating the IFA Shield purely as a means to fathom what his plans could be once the NFL resumes later this month. “I fielded two uncapped players against Tollygunge and will try out a couple more tomorrow.”
Ghanaian stopper Osumanu Husseini is likely to stay in the XI since main defender Mahesh Gawli is out injured. The second foreigner will then be a toss-up between goalkeeper Edward Ansah and striker Yusif Yakubu.
Churchill, in fact, are awaiting the arrival of Army XI striker Pritam Bahadur, who has been taken on lien. He is expected to fly back after the Durand Cup final in New Delhi.