He may be taking on a team which is currently in the lower reaches of I-League football, a side which has just two foreigners in its line-up though four are allowed but Mohun Bagan coach Karim Bencherifa is not taking any chances.

Bagan, the Kolkata giant, meets Churchill Brothers in the Federation Cup semifinals at the Nehru Stadium here on Thursday evening and Bencherifa is eager to see his side maintain its focus.

“Churchill is a good team, it had a very disappointing start in the I-League.

“The team made some changes, so their boys want to win as bad as us,” said the Moroccan on Wednesday.

“And the Churchill boys have never won the Federation Cup, they always do their best to win this tournament. So, we have to match their desire, may be even more.” Surprisingly, three of the four teams in the last-four stage are from Goa with Dempo SC and Sporting Clube de Goa, which meet in the second semifinal on Thursday, completing the line-up.

With Bagan being the only side from Kolkata in the semifinals, Bencherifa must be a delighted man. But he will also be under a lot of pressure to go all the way and lift the Cup.

Men to watch

With its two Nigerian strikers, Okolie Odafa and Chizoba Christoper, in fine nick, Bagan has the most impressive record among the teams after the league phase, scoring eight goals and conceding just one. And in the midfield, Japanese Katsumi Yusa has been a tireless worker.

Meanwhile, Churchill has been an inspired side.

Despite its many problems, the team has come out fighting and the boys clearly appeared excited as they warmed up on Wednesday.

“I’m just controlling their minds, telling them to stay focused and concentrate on the Fed Cup,” said Mariano Dias, the Churchill coach.

“Bagan is a very strong team and since both of us want to win, both of us will be coming very strongly in this match. I take my opponents seriously. I think Bagan will also be worried about us.”

World Cupper Anthony Wolfe, the Churchill striker who was making his ‘debut’ in India in the Federation Cup, looked impressive and was keen to raise the bar. “I think Churchill’s time has now come, we had been struggling in the I-League, I feel our wait will now be over and we will do well in I-League too,” said Wolfe.

Sporting Clube de Goa, the last to qualify for the semifinal, had a long and tiresome trip from Manjeri to Kochi and that should give Dempo some edge in the other semifinal.

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