Global focus: Hero ISL stars weigh in on the World Cup
The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia has so far lived up to its billing of being one of the greatest spectacles in the world. For the past couple of weeks, we have seen some inspiring performances from some of the world’s best as well as a few surprise upsets from the underdogs. With the group stages done and dusted, we asked some of our Hero Indian Super League (ISL) stars to share their perspectives on the tournament and what are they expecting going into the knockout stages.
Gurpreet favours the brave
A number of underdogs have risen to the occasion in Russia and Bengaluru FC shot-stopper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has been thoroughly impressed with their performances on the pitch. “I think all the nations which were not seen to get results in the World Cup on paper impressed me, especially the likes of Iran, Japan, Senegal, Morocco, Mexico and Peru.”
The World Cup has also lain witness to the best players in the world turning up at the grand stage to deliver the goods for their country. Gurpreet has singled out a few players who have stood out during the group stages, including a few familiar goalkeepers. “I think Luka Modric, Christian Eriksen, Harry Kane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Alireza Beiranvand, Kasper Schmeichel, Hannes Halldorsson and Guillermo Ochoa were standouts because they showed their metal when the team needed them the most.”
Pritam’s fallen dark horses
Iran impressed many with their fearless performances against Spain and Portugal in Group B. Carlos Quieroz’s men formed one of the most rigid and solid defensive backlines in the tournament and are slowly emerging an Asian powerhouse. Delhi Dynamos FC and Indian right-back Pritam Kotal expressed his disappointment that they could not progress to the knockout stages but also revealed that he had initially chosen them as the tournament’s dark horses: “Iran was my dark horse this time around, but I was sad they couldn't make it after a valiant fight against the mighty Portugal.” The 24-year-old also revealed who he expects to reach the grand final on July 15th, “I think Belgium have a chance to be in the final and England too.”
Bheke picks his favourite goal of the lot
This World Cup edition has seen a total 122 goals so far in the competition, but Rahul Bheke singled out Aleksandar Kolarov’s majestic free-kick against Costa Rica as his favourite of the lot. “Kolarov’s free-kick against Costa Rica has been my favourite goal, coming from a defender.”
The World Cup finalists of 2014, Argentina and Germany have not enjoyed fruitful outings in the World Cup so far. Argentina had to rely on a last-gasp winner against Nigeria to progress while defending champions Germany were unceremoniously dumped out of the competition by South Korea. The Bengaluru defender was also not impressed with their performances so far and expects the big teams to tighten their screws with the knockout stages looming large. “France, Spain, Germany and Argentina have not been in form and have not displayed the standard of play they are capable of showing with the depth of their squads.”
Pronay Halder’s call to action
FC Goa’s Pronay Halder has been keenly following the group stages and urges his team-mates to take inspiration from the performances of the underdogs in Russia. “The Group stage of the World Cup 2018 was very exciting, as we have seen some exciting clashes. Teams like Japan, Nigeria, Iran and Iceland gave a tough fight against the world’s best. It also gives us the motivation to do the best for our country and I believe we can also do well in the 2019 Asian Cup in January.”
Thapa hoping for a clash of Titans
Heading into the knockouts, Chennaiyin FC midfielder Anirudh Thapa is hopeful of a quarter-final clash featuring two of the world’s best players. “From the round of 16, we can expect heavy battles between all the teams. I am expecting to see Portugal and Argentina facing each other in the round of 8. It will be memorable to see the two legends of football competing against each other if both Argentina and Portugal can win their round of 16 games. Brazil haven't been playing that well either, they are able to create chances but are unable to finish. However, I am expecting their players to find their form and play to their calibre. I also have big hopes from Belgium.”
Do you agree with the opinions of your favourite ISL stars? Have your say in the comments section below.