Tamil Nadu will take on West Bengal, the host, in the opening encounter of the Santosh Trophy on July 28
Spain's historic maiden triumph at the 2010 FIFA World Cup will now serve as a template for a setting a few thousand miles removed from the scene of its enactment. Tamil Nadu's very own football side, which is gearing up for the Santosh Trophy in West Bengal, is hopeful that La Furia Roja's run of success will inspire it to its first ever triumph in the national tournament.
“We would love to do a Spain. The State has not won the Santosh Trophy yet and it will be wonderful if we are able to claim the title this time. That is what the coaching staff and the team are working towards,” says V. Soundararajan, coach of Tamil Nadu.
Focus on vital facets
With the players going full tilt at the St. Joseph's College of Engineering-sponsored training camp, the emphasis, says the coach, is on brushing up all vital facets of game play.
“We will try and look at various aspects. Goal keeping, wing play, pressing and so on. We will decide on a formation at the end of the camp, depending on the players and their skill sets. They will, of course, have to make themselves comfortable playing in more than one formation because depending on the opponent, or the match situation, we will have to be flexible.”
“Another area we are focussing on is getting the I-League players to develop a rapport with the rest of the team. We are looking at the I-League returnees to slot into a few key positions. In the midfield, P. Sudhakar (Annai Youth), Rajesh (Railways), Shanta Kumaran (Chirag) and Pradeep (Mumbai) have the skill and experience. P.C. Riju who was prolific in the last edition will play with Sabeeth (Viva Kerala) upfront, with one feeding off the other,” says Robin, Soundararajan's deputy.
Although Tamil Nadu will be missing a few of its key players, the coach puts a positive spin on it.
“It works both ways. We have lost Satish of Customs to national duty. (He is currently training with the Indian team in Portugal). So have Goa and West Bengal. Goa, in fact, will be missing the services of seven of its players, and West Bengal about five. So that evens the field a bit,” he says.
Tamil Nadu rode on crowd support to storm into the semifinals of the last edition, but will be up against West Bengal, the host, and its legion of fans in the opening encounter on July 28.
“Home support will be a big factor. The first match is against West Bengal and the crowd will be completely behind them. But our players have competed for clubs all over the country and are used to such things. They will not be intimidated.”
There are, however, a few causes for concern as the spectre of injury looms large over some vital players.
“Injuries will keep V. Prem Kumar and N. Kali Alaudeen out. It is a bit of a worry, but then Ravanan (Churchill Brothers) will join the camp soon and we will also have Diwakaran and Pradeep shoring up the back four.”
The run to the semifinals last year will see Tamil Nadu freed from the rigmarole of qualifiers, leaving the side fresh to tackle the main-draw matches.
“We know what is precisely required of us. Two wins in the early stage will see us through to the next phase. We are in the same pool as West Bengal, Railways/Kerala and Delhi. So we know what to prepare for,” concludes Soundararajan.