Mizoram will seek the fruition of an uninterrupted winning run with a triumph when it takes on Railways in the final of the 68th National football championship, for the Santosh Trophy, at the Kanchenjungha Stadium on Sunday evening.
Railways, which last won the National title almost half a century ago (1966), will also be gunning to regain the glory. But for the tiny North-East State with a mighty passion for football, the title will end a prolonged longing for a place in the roll of honour.
Mizoram coach H. Vanlalthangla tried to put the team in “high intensity” mode by holding a three-hour long practice session on the eve of the “most important test” for his boys.
“We are representing a State that is immensely passionate about football. Winning the Santosh Trophy can alone justify the craving for success that we all share,” Vanlalthangla stressed.
Mizoram has won all the matches — three in the zonals and five in the final phase – that it has played since the beginning of its campaign. “We would like to see our successful run end in a proper conclusion. I would hope my boys will give their best and beat a strong side like Railways,” the Mizoram coach said.
Vanlalthangla said he would get the best combination to start against Railways. This would mean more responsibility for captain Zico Zoremsanga and David Lalrinmuana, who have played a prominent role in Mizoram attack.
“We have a balanced but young side. I hope they rise to the occasion and realise their true potential,” Vanlalthangla said. Railways, which has reached the final after 27 years, will be missing regular central defenders Rajiv Boro and Vimal Kumar. It will give the coach Souren Dutta some thinking to do to organise the team’s backline. “Missing Rajiv and Vimal is a big blow. But I am confident that the players who replace them will rise to the occasion,” said Dutta. “Our team has entered the final after many years and the boys are eager to prove themselves,” said Dutta, who was a part of the team that played the last final in 1986-87.
Datta said the strategy would be to contain Mizoram’s speedy attacks and rely on quick counter-attacks using the likes of P.C. Riju, Anil Kisku, S. Rajesh and Sibra Narzary, who figure prominently in Railways offensive. “Mizoram has the propensity to increase the number of players in their attack, we have to use those spaces for counter-attacks,” he said. Railways and Mizoram have faced each other four times in the history of Santosh Trophy with both winning one match each and the other being drawn.
The final will be telecast live on DD Sports from 6 p.m.