Durand Cup 2023: Mohun Bagan Super Giant face Punjab FC; Odisha FC begin campaign
Indian Super League (ISL) side and reigning Super Cup champions Odisha FC lock horns with the Indian Army Football Team at the SAI stadium in Kokrajhar, even as the first-ever promoted ISL side Punjab FC take on the might of Mohun Bagan Super Giant in Kolkata’s Kishore Bharati Krirangan (KBK).
More teams are set to get a slice of Durand Cup action come Monday, as Indian Super League (ISL) side and reigning Super Cup champions Odisha FC lock horns with the Indian Army Football Team at the SAI stadium in Kokrajhar, even as the first-ever promoted ISL side Punjab FC take on the might of Mohun Bagan Super Giant in Kolkata’s Kishore Bharati Krirangan (KBK).
The Group F game in Kokrajhar kicks-off at 3.00pm Indian Standard Time (IST) while the second Group A game in Kolkata has a 6.00pm scheduled kick-off.
All 43 games of the Durand Cup are being telecast LIVE on Sony Sports Ten 2 channels as well as livestreamed on SonyLIV
Odisha FC v Indian Army Football Team: The most open group
Odisha have announced a 22-member squad under Head Coach Amit Rana, comprising home-grown talent from the state. They have been having their most successful season yet and would surely like to extend that run.
“Today we begin our journey this season. Our preparation has been relentless, our focus unwavering,” said team captain Rakesh Oram. Coach Rana also looked ahead eagerly to the game saying, “As we step onto the field for our first match, we're excited to showcase the hard work and dedication that our team has put in. We're focused on giving our best performance and embracing the challenges that come our way.”
However, the going will not be easy for them as Army teams are known to play some gritty football and have caused issues or turned tables on many established sides before.
“We are a set team and this year we are stronger than last time as we have made a team combining both the Army Red and Green teams. So, we have the best of both. We are hopeful of winning tomorrow,” said captain Babindra Malla Thakuri in a pre-game conversation. He added, “Kokrajhar is a sporting place. We are happy to see the crowd excitement for Football in this place. We will give our best against Odisha FC.”
Coach Antony Ramesh was more forthcoming when he said, “This time we have only one thought in mind to just to win every match. Neither we are thinking to draw nor to give our best. Our one thought is just to win every match. We will win our group stage and reach quarter final that is ultimate aim.” He also expressed pride in the fact that the Indian Army was conducting tournament so successfully with two foreign teams playing this year and hoped the tournament will grow fantastically as years went by.
With Rajasthan United and Bodoland FC, the other teams in Group F, this looks to be one of the most open groups in this edition of the Durand Cup.
Mohun Bagan Super Giant v Punjab FC: Home team will look to be comfortable ahead of Kolkata derby
There are enough names in the 26-member Punjab FC squad headed by Greek coach Staikos Vergetis, who can ruffle the feathers of Mohun Bagan Super Giant, who in turn were not quite challenged in their first game against the Bangladesh Army Football team.
Upfront they have a goal machine in Luka Majcen, the Slovenian poacher who has over 50 goals in his four-season India stint across clubs so far. Other names like Leon Augustine, Amarjit Kiyam and Nepalese Kiran Limbu in goal, have been proven performers.
Luka, who is also captaining the side seemed aware of his side’s strengths when he said ahead of the game, “We are looking forward for the game tomorrow. We have a balanced team of players from the last season as well as quite a few exciting new players. We know we are playing against a big club and though we respect our opponent we will go strong with our plans. It is pretty early in the season, so we'd want to see where we stand and evaluate the things, we need to improve for the long season ahead.”
“Our plan is to present one team with a lot of defensive cohesion, a team that will be compact to avoid any possible chances from the opponent. At the same time, we are working on our offensive transitions to have a competitive game against a very strong side in Mohun Bagan,” said coach Vergetis, giving an insight into the thinking in the squad.
Mohun Bagan Super Giant on the other hand have been playing pleasing football across the sides they have been fielding in multiple tournaments that they are engaged in currently and their young talent is enviable. The performance, with only three first-team players upfront in the first game of this tournament, was nothing short of champagne and clinical. They would also look to be comfortably placed on the table ahead of their Kolkata derby game up next in the tournament.
Under the circumstances, it would boil down to belief and that Punjab have shown in abundance during their winning I-League campaign. A competitive game of football is in the offing.