FC Goa squad, season preview, prediction | ISL 2019-20
With the start of the sixth season of the Indian Super League (ISL) looming large, we continue our series of previews for the ten ISL teams, and in this one, we take a look at last season's losing ISL finalists, FC Goa.
Can Goa finally conquer the final frontier? That's the one question on everyone's lips. Well, they certainly can, given that squad they've got, the manager they have, but as we know, football is a funny sport. And, it is never played on paper.
Nonetheless, what do Goa have going for them? In one word, continuity. Sergio Lobera is entering his third season with the club, and so are their key foreign players. The ISL's all-time top-scorer Ferran Corominas (Coro), will be back to regale the Fatorda crowd for a third straight season, and so are midfielders Ahmed Jahouh, Edu Bedia and Hugo Boumous.
Defenders Mourtada Fall and Carlos Pena, too, will be back for a second season, hoping to lift the Gaurs to one better than last season, when they lost 1-0 in extra-time in the final against Bengaluru FC, thanks to a 117th-minute header from Rahul Bheke.
Goa are the only side in the ISL's short history to have made the playoffs on four different occasions, but at each opportunity, they have floundered, losing two semifinals and two finals. Lobera knows that his side will have to live with the tag of not being able to perform on big occasions, but they did go a long way in erasing that tag, when they won the Super Cup in Bhubaneswar in April, defeating Chennaiyin FC 2-1 in the final, with goals from Coro and Brandon Fernandes.
The Gaurs' pre-season has seen them stick to base in Goa, where they have faced off against a variety of local teams, but one thing hasn't changed - their free-scoring self. So there's one certainty, Goa's attacking prowess remains.
FC Goa Squad
While the foreign contingent has largely remained the same, with only Zaid Krouch leaving the club, the Indian contingent has been spruced up with some superb additions.
Seiminlen Doungel has made the move from Kerala Blasters, and so has Aiban Dohling, who was one of the bright spots in a dismal 2018-19 I-League campaign for Shillong Lajong.
Youngsters Kingslee Fernandes and Princeton Rebello will be looked at to make a mark this season, while Brandon Fernandes and Mandar Rao Dessai will be itching to ensure that they keep up the form that has helped both of them win call-ups to Igor Stimac's Indian national team.
Full FC Goa squad
Goalkeepers: Naveen Kumar, Mohammad Nawaz, Shubham Dhas
Defenders: Mourtada Fall, Carlos Pena, Seriton Fernandes, Saviour Gama, Chinglensana Singh, Mohammad Ali, Aiban Dohling, Amey Ranawade
Midfielders: Edu Bedia, Ahmed Jahouh, Hugo Boumous, Mandar Rao Dessai, Brandon Fernandes, Lenny Rodrigues, Princeton Rebello, Kingslee Fernandes
Forwards: Ferran Corominas, Jackichand Singh, Seiminlen Doungel, Manvir Singh, Lalawmpuia, Liston Colaco
One knows what they're getting when you are watching or going up against a team led by Sergio Lobera. They're going to pass, they're going to press, and they're going to attack relentlessly.
But Lobera himself has evolved in the last two seasons that he's been in charge of Goa. In 2017-18, Goa's free-scoring was met by the free concession of goals as well, with very little emphasis on being stingy at the back. Lobera himself famously said that he'd rather win 5-2 than 1-0 because that helps with the goal-difference.
Last season though, Goa had the most clean sheets, and it is a huge credit to Lobera that he managed to tighten the rearguard without allowing his team to lose its creativity and threat up front.
Lobera knows what Goa wants though, and that is to be lifting the trophy at the end of the season. Can he be the first manager (well, they've had only two) to lead FC Goa to glory?
Like with Bengaluru, it is difficult to see how Goa don't make the semifinals, at the very least. A well-drilled side, with battle-hardened foreigners, exciting Indian youngsters, who have all brought into the ideas of their manager, have made Goa the exciting side that they are.
It's time that Goa move from being known as the side playing the most beautiful football in the ISL to the side that wins the ISL. And there is little doubt that the squad is fully capable of achieving exactly that.Modified 21 Dec 2019, 00:44 IST