Football

AFC Champions League | FC Goa, India set for group stage debut

Hard at work: Aibanbha Dohling and Jorge Ortiz in training ahead of FC Goa's AFC Champions League opener.  

The AFC Champions League will be played in India for the first time here from Wednesday with FC Goa becoming the only team from the country to feature in the group stage of the continent’s top-tier competition in club football.

The Gaurs will take the field against Qatar’s Al-Rayyan SC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and head coach Juan Ferrando will hope that his team can fully utilise the advantage of playing at home.

FC Goa will be up against a side coached by former Paris Saint-Germain manager Laurent Blanc.

The home team will also have to contend with the likes of former FC Porto star Yacine Brahimi and prolific Ivorian striker Yohan Boli.

Besides Al Rayyan, the Gaurs will also have to contend with Persepolis FC (Iran) and Al Wahda (UAE) in Group E.

Ferrando described it as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity for the players to compete against some of the biggest names in Asia.

“(We are) very excited. This is one of the biggest competitions in the world,” Ferrando said.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many. These are the kind of things you start playing football for,” said Ferrando.

“This is an opportunity for our players to play against some of the biggest names in Asia. Our goals are still far.”

Attacking flair

Al Rayyan also achieved direct qualification for this season and will be looking to make a good start to its campaign.

Brahimi brings attacking flair to the side with his skill, pace and unpredictability.

For FC Goa, Ishan Pandita is one of the most exciting talents to emerge, having spent time in the academies of Spanish clubs Almeria and Leganes.

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 2:31:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/afc-champions-league-fc-goa-india-set-for-group-stage-debut/article34313872.ece

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