The Federation Cup, India’s version of the FA Cup kicks off from Tuesday. Group A will consist of Churchill Brothers, Pune FC, United Sports Club and Eagles FC. None of them have much history behind them when it comes to Federation Cup. The three I-League teams in the group – Pune FC, United SC and Churchill Brothers would like to win the tournament to get the direct entry in AFC Cup 2015. The fourth team in the group Eagles FC will like to put a strong impression before the second division I-League commence.
Churchill Brothers have won most tournaments in Indian football, but are yet to win the Federation Cup. The Goan giant’s dismal form in the I-League does not give much hope for their fans either. Pune FC has been on the scene for some time now. The Red Lizards are yet to win a major trophy – so they would like to start by winning the Federation Cup. United Sports Club has been severely hit by lack of sponsors. They would be just hope to put a good performance in the tournament. Eagles FC Kerala is the minnows in the group. The 2nd division side will take this as an opportunity to test their players against the best. The Group matches would be played at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi.
Churchill Brothers SC
The Goan giants are having a poor season so far, The I-league defending Champions are at the bottom of the table. The team looked short of fitness this season. The hire and fire policy with foreigners has not gone well for the club. The club would hope for a fresh beginning in the 2014. They are going with just 2 foreigners in the federation cup. Subhash Bhowmick would be expecting minimum errors from his club in defence. Lacklustre defence has been one of the reasons of their dismal performances in the recent past.
Captain Dharmaraj Ravanan has to play a role of of leader at the back. He would have to coordinate well with his back line. Lenny Rodrigues has shown glimpses of coming back to form in his last match against Mohammedan Sporting. He would have a crucial role to play in holding the midfield together for the club. Egyptian playmaker Shabana is one of the class players playing in I-League. He has impressed one and all. He would be the men to look out for. Balwant Singh has been in form for Churchill Brothers in the I-League. The Punjabi Striker has to continue his form in the Federation cup. Inclusion of T&T striker Anthony Wolfe will bolster that attack. The world cupper would look to make an impressive debut for the Red Machines.
Key Players: Lenny Rodrigues, Shabana
Pune FC had the best start to the season in the I-league. The club was leading the table at the start of the season, but in the recent past the form has dipped. The goals have dried up and this has put added pressure on the defensive unit. Mike Snoie is under a bit of pressure from the last few weeks. He would like to see his team get back in form in the tournament. The tournament performance will also play huge role in the AFC Champions League qualifier; Poor performance could lower the moral of the team. Mustapha Riga has to fire for the club now, he has been under criticism for his poor work rate off the ball. The former Bolton Wanderers striker has to live up to the huge expectation that he had brought earlier.
Australian winger James Meyer will use this opportunity to shut his critics. The Aussie has not played to his potential and will be hoping for a turnaround. Ivory Cost midfielder Douhou and India international Izumi Arata will be hoping to continue to perform well in the middle of the park. The defence of the club is strong with Calum James Angus and Anas in defence. Both have looked good, but more would be expected from them by their fans due to inexperience in Goalkeeping department.
Key Players: Douhou, Calum Angus
Lack of funding has badly affected United Sports Club. The Kolkata based club which signed the likes of Carlos Hernandez, Gauramangi Singh, Subrata Paul last season has been struggling this season. The club has not paid the salary of the player for last few months and that has affected the game of the players. Even the prolific goal scorer like Ranti Martins is struggling this season. There were rumours that coach Eelco Scattered and few players would leave the club after the break in the I-League. The club has been able to hold on to the players and it will be interesting to see how much more time they can survive like this. Nothing much is expected from them in the tournament, the squad lacks the depth which is needed for the tournament like this. The Likes of Ranti Martins and Eric Brown have to bring some magic to upset the odds. The defence looks waek with the exclusion of Bello Razaq.
Key Players: Ranti Martins, Eric Brown
Eagles FC Kerala
2nd division outfit Eagles FC Kerala will be upbeat to play against the top clubs in the country. This is the first time club would be playing in the tournament of such a magnitude. The club has been bolstered with the inclusion of number of IMG-R players, and are certainly no pushovers in the group. The club is managed by Stanly Rozario and he will be well aware about the pressure of playing against the top clubs. Nigerian striker Koko Sakibo has played for I-league clubs and his experience would come in handy. Ghanian defender Charles Dzisah also played in I-League. He is versatile defender and would be a key player for the Eagles. The team would be looking to take this opportunity to show their fans that they can match the best.
Key Players: Koko Sakibo, Charles Dzisah
January 14: Churchill Brothers vs United Sports Club
January 14: Pune FC vs Eagles FC Kerala
January 17: United Sports Club vs Pune FC
January 17: Eagles FC Kerala vs Churchill Brothers
January 20: United Sports Club vs Eagles FC Kerala
January 20: Churchill Brothers vs Pune FC
It is a tricky group, the I-League clubs in the group can beat anyone on their day. Going by the form of this season so far Pune FC looks to be the clear favourite to win the group and progress to the next stage. Eagles FC can play a role as the party spoiler in the group.