After a breathtaking matchday of Futsal on Thursday, we have made it to the all-important semi-finals of the Premier Futsal League. In the first game, it was Goa who prevailed against Bengaluru after a comfortable 3-0 victory in front of the gleeful home fans. The second game would prove to be a nail-biter as Kochi edged out a draw in the dying seconds of the game to send Chennai tumbling out of the tournament.
With the two semi-finals set to take place this evening, we expect some fantastic Futsal. However, two teams will be exiting the tournament after tonight’s games while two others will battle it out tomorrow in the Final game of the tournament.
Here are some of the major factors that could influence the semi-finals and determine who makes it to the finals.
#1 The importance of controlling individual stars
The Premier Futsal League has managed to attract some of the world’s finest Futsal players. Brazilians Vampeta and Chaguinha who play for Goa 5s and Kochi 5s respectively, Russia’s Pula who plays for Kolkata 5s and Italian Adriano Foglia who plays for Mumbai 5s are some of the biggest stars for the remaining four teams in the Premier Futsal.
Each of the aforementioned stars have been few of the standout players for their respective teams in the tournament. Kolkata’s Pula has been giving the green light to be himself on the pitch as the Russian has played at different positions being Kolkata’s highest goal scorer in the group stages.
Mumbai’s Foglia has been their best player and also a great mentor to the Indian youngsters as he willingly steps back into the defence to let the Indians get some time up front.
Chaguinha, on the other hand has resorted to the role of playing second fiddle to Kochi’s Moraes who has scored most of his goals through a Chaguinha assist. Meanwhile, Vampeta has been Goa’s playmaker of sorts as he has been in the centre of almost every attack that the team has made.
Chennai and Bengaluru are teams that could not manage to control their big stars which see’s them knocked out.
#2 Kochi's versatility and Salgado's leadership
Michel Salgado was one of the players who was expected to struggle to adapt to the shorter version of the game. The ex-Galactico is popular for his rock solid defending and his blistering runs down the right wing in the 11-a-side version. However, quick feet and fancy skills were not his forte.
However, Kochi’s captain has taken to the shorter format like a fish takes to water and has been a rock in the defence for Kerala. He wears his heart on his sleeve when he takes the pitch and his passion for the game seems to be infectious as the rest of his team-mates seems to have followed their captain. His organisation at the back has let the younger stars and international futsal players to be themselves in the attack.
Thier versatility could be another major factor that could influence the semi-finals. Against Chennai in the last game, Kochi played over 5 minutes in the last quarter without a goalkeeper and managed to concede just one goal (which was conceded when the goalkeeper was on).
Should we see Kochi in a similar position tonight, they could switch to five outfield players.
#3 Marquee players adapting to the game
Except for Chennai’s Falcao, the other players in the tournament are international Football legends. For football players to adapt to the fast-paced shorter version could be a tough task. However, most of the players have fit into their teams seamlessly.
The importance of a marquee player’s performance is vital for a team’s morale as the youngsters feed on their confidence. If the most popular player in the team is not confident himself, he is not going to be in a position to inspire his comrades to perform better.
Bengaluru’s Paul Scholes found it hard to adapt to the game and was uncomfortable on the ball on many occasions throughout the tournament. This saw Bengaluru knocked out of the tournament with just 4 goals to their tally.
#4 Cafu's freshness and tireless running
After a Five-star-show, Ronaldinho left his teammates and was replaced by Brazillian legend Cafu. Playing the sport at the age of 46 is in itself something to be proud of, but Cafu makes it look like he is in his early twenties when he is on the pitch for Goa.
In Ronaldinho’s absence, Vampeta and Raphael have been responsible for Goa’s exploits in the attacking department while Cafu has slotted into the back with ease. In the game against Bengaluru, the legendary defender had over 6 shots on goal with many of them troubling the keeper.
He was playing end to end football wearing a smile on his face at all times and looked fresh. His composure, leadership, experience and stamina on the pitch could be the difference between Goa and Kochi tonight.
#5 The importance of a composed Indian player
The best component of this tournament is the inclusion of young Indian players. The youngsters have shared the pitch with players they have idolised growing up and this tournament could prove to be a life-changing experience for some.
In the group stages, a few Indian players stole the show. Nanda from Chennai, Johnathan from Bengaluru, Mohammed Islam for Kolkata, Chanpreet for Mumbai, Anupam for Kochi, and Marshall for Goa have been the standout performers.
Chanpreet’s composure in defence has been one of the best features of the Mumbai 5s team while Kochi 5s player Anupam’s quick feet and neat skill has been a delight to watch. The two players could be the difference for their respective teams in the semi-finals of the tournament. A confident Indian player could make the unit perform to its optimum and hence this could be one of the most important factors tonight.