Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune
1st March, 2011 – 6:30 PM IST

They came, they saw, although the they could not conquer, they gave it their all. They played bravely and in Jorge Fosatti – Al Sadd’s Urugyuan coach’s eyes – Dempo almost conquered their final frontier. At the Sheik Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Qatar, Dempo played like fearless soldiers matching their Qatari opponents shot for shot. But the gulf in the class of the two teams eventually shown up and Al Sadd came out winners on the night by two goals to nil albeit after being made to sweat it out and given some anxious moments by Armando Colaco’s men.

Al Sadd’s Ivory Coast World Cupper – Kader Keita, who was responsible for the sending off of Kaka in the 2010 World Cup at South Africa, gave the home team the lead in the 33rd minute through a fine header. But it was not until the 89th minute that they made the result safe – until Brazilian Leandro Da Silva came up with a last gasp goal. Dempo played with all their four foreign imports – Beto, Ranti Martins, Ogba Kalu and Iranian Rouhollah Semienia, but evidently that was not enough. The result meant that Dempo failed for the second time in three years in their quest to qualify for AFC Champions League and instead will now play in the AFC Cup.

Welcome to India – Armando greets his counterpart Eshetu

Dempo are placed in Group A along with Al-Tilal of Yemen, Al-Ansar of Lebanon and Nasaf of Uzbekistan. Their first test is on March 1st against Al-Tilal of Yemen at home. The absence of floodlights at Goa’s only stadium – the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium at Margao, meant that Dempo were forced to shift their matches to Balewadi in Pune. This is the second time in three years that Dempo have been forced to shift their matches outside Goa after being made to play at Hyderabad in 2008.

Team News and Tactical Brief


Dempo will most certainly play all their four foreigners against Al-Tilal, an Aden based club founded in 1905. They are no pushovers having won the Yemeni League twice in 1991 and 2005. They also won the Yemeni President’s Cup – Indias’s equivalent of the Federation Cup – twice in 2007 and 2010. They made their debut in the AFC Cup in 2009 where they failed to get past the Group Stage. Although on paper their team lacks a bit of quality, they cannot be counted out as Indian teams are always known to struggle against the physically stronger and taller west Asian players. Al-Tilal are currently on top of the 14 team Yemeni League with 25 points ahead of their nearest rivals Al-Oruba who are on 24 points after 13 matches. They have lost just twice in the Yemeni League this season and will be looking forward to their game in India. A. Al Wadi, a defender and Khaled Baleid a midfielder are their key players.

The press conference at Balewadi

Dempo SC

Dempo on the other hand will be buoyed by their performance in the match against Al Sadd and will be hoping to start their campaign on a wining note. They have resurrected their I-League campaign and are in superb form at the moment having won their last four matches in the league including three away. The team, after the return of their Indian stars is looking solid and compact in all areas and the luxury of being allowed to play all their foreigners will be an added advantage.

The foreigners are finally combining well with Beto being their standout performer and will certainly be Dempo’s key player and Al-Tilal’s man to mark. Ranti too has found some form lately and will be hoping to add to his tally in Asia. The Dempo midfield will most probably have Climax and Kalu at the middle and Clifford and Peter on the left and right respectively. Beto may be given a free role or may be deployed to play just behind Ranti. The defence will have Domnic Noronha and Mahesh Gawli at the centre. Samir Naik will marshal the right wing, while on the left it could be either Debabrata Roy or Iranian Semieinia. In fact Semeiniea played at left back against Al Sadd after Debabrata failed to make the trip due to a passport problem. It will be interesting to see if Armando Colaco persists with the same line up that played so well against Al Sadd.

Dempo’s achilles heel could be their defence. Although Mahesh Gawli has been outstanding at the back for them since his return, his partner Domnic Noronha looks a tad slow and could be undone by the physical presence of the tall Yemeni strikers. Dempo shouldn’t have a problem while going forward as they have plenty of options. Joaquim Abranches and Godwin Franco made brief appearances in the game against Al Sadd and will once again be called if need be.

Armando Colaco, at the beginning of the season, had set his priorities that this time he is targeting the AFC Cup. His time starts now. A win in their first game will set the tone for the rest of the season. He is a veteran tactician and knows it very well that winning here will boost his side’s confidence and develop the winning habit – something of paramount importance in Asia. India will be hoping their flag bearers in Asia put up a good show. For once Dempo will count on Puneites to drum up support. Vamos!

TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch Out For:

Roberto Mendes da Silva (Beto):

The Brazilian magician is in supreme form. He is the creative force behind this Dempo team. His vision of the game and the defense splitting passes could spell disaster for any opponent defenders. He is also a master dead ball specialist and lethal in front of the goal. Watch out for Beto to make a positive impact in Dempo’s bid to notch up a winning result against Al-Tilal.

TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Dempo SC 2-2 Al-Tilal

PS: Image Courtesy – Sundar Iyer, Total Sports Management