Lusofonia games, which started just three years back, are contested among the nations where the Portuguese had their colonies. The games have been started on similar lines as the Commonwealth games. Goa & Daman and Diu were the two places where Portuguese had their colonies hence it makes India eligible to play in the tournament. Football is one of the sports in the games and being a popular sport in Goa, it is expected to draw large crowds to the stadiums. The team will not be used as India due to objections by AIFF since the Goa government wanted to use only the Goan born players in the team. The team has now been named as Goa-India and preparations for the tournament has begun. The U-21 tournament comprises of players based in Goa or playing in Goan clubs.
The Goa Football Association has roped in Portuguese UEFA Pro License holder coach Neto to guide the team. The Portuguese has good experience working with youngster in Europe. With some early problems due to unavailability of players, the gaffer has been able to finalize his best players for the tournament.
Goalkeepers: Albino Pereira (Salgaocar FC), Ricardo Cardoza (Bengaluru FC)
In Goa-India team both the goal keepers are yet to make their debut in I-League but they have been around for some time now. Both Albino and Ricardo have been with Indian junior teams on many occasions. Both are strong and tall and it would be interesting to see who would be used in starting XI. Albino might just get nod ahead due to his appearance for Salgaocar FC in Goa League.
Albino Pereira has been a part of Salgaocar FC youth setup for some time now and recently signed a professional contract with the first team. The youngster has appeared in few state league matches and has been impressive. Tata Football Academy product Ricardo Cardoza was with India u23 camp last year but could not find a place in the main team. The custodian would be eager to use this opportunity to grab some attention.
Defenders: Caitano Viegas, Leston Afonso, Ponif Vaz, George D’Souza (all Sesa Football Academy), Meldon D’Silva (Wilfred Liesure FC), Surjit Singh (Salgaocar FC).
The defensive line of the team is a little bit inexperienced. The players have not played beyond Goa league. The gaffer might go with all Goa Sesa defense lines of Caitano, Leston, Ponif and George. The players would be having a better understanding with each other since they play in the same club. Their experience of playing together will help them in the match. Ponif Vaz has been impressive in Goa league this season and will look to continue his form going into the tournament. Meldon D’Silva is one of the top rated youngsters at Wilfred Liesure. The physically strong defender would look to put strong performance to attract few I-League clubs. He has been a one of the better performers for Wilfred Liesure in the Goa Pro League. Salgaocar FC defender Surjit Singh had little to show this season and his performances will be keenly observed by Salgaocar FC in the tournament.
Midfielders: Richard Costa, Alesh Sawant (both Churchill Brothers SC), Paresh Korgaonkar (SESA football academy), Sahil Tavora, Nickson Castanha, Aniston Fernandes (All Dempo Sports Club), Brandon Fernandes (ASD Cape Town).
Midfield of the team is the strongest and there are quite few known faces. Neto would has many proven players to choose from in starting XI. Churchill Brothers duo of Alesh Sawant and Richard Costa have already made their I-League debut. Former Brasil Football Academy graduate Alesh Sawant has been playing for the first team on a consistent basis and his experience would be vital in the matches.
Dempo trio of Sahil Tavora, Nickson Castanha and Aniston Fernandes would be keen on grabbing this opportunity to impress the fans. Sahil Tavora and Nickson Castanha are one of the highest rated players in Dempo and lots would be expected from them. Aniston Fernandes was handpicked by Dempo SC to train in Denmark for a few weeks. Playing in Danish Junior league games would have come handy for the central midfield.
Paresh Korgaonkar is a hot property in the SESA Football Academy. The attacking midfielder is known for his long rangers and aggressive intent. He is expected to move to I-League club very soon.
One of the biggest names in the midfield will be Brandon Fernandes. The attacking midfielder caught limelight when he was offered a trial by UK clubs. The ASD Cape Town player has played at every age group level for the country. He has impressed with the age group teams and many have been expecting him to move to Europe very soon. He is a set piece expert and his free kicks would come handy in the tournament. These matches would be perfect platform for Brandon to grab attention of national team coach and shut up his critics.
Forwards: Myron Fernandes, Mandar Rao Desai (both Dempo Sports Club), Brian Mascarenhas (Salgaocar FC), Umesh Harijan (Sesa Football Academy), Albert Gonsalves (Goa Velha).
Coach Neto has been impressed with Dempo SC striker Myron Fernandes. He was one of the players who were lucky and got handpicked to train in Denmark by Dempo SC. The striker already has made his debut in I-league and has been in sensational form for his club in Goa league. His pace and finishing would come handy for the team. Mandar Rao Desai is one more Dempo prodigy who has been impressive not only in Goa league but also in a handful of matches he played in I-league.
Brian Mascarenhas made his debut last year in I-League for Salgaocar FC. The youngster was in the India U23 team. He has done well for the Salgaocar FC in every occasion he played. Umesh Harijan and Albert Gonsalves would be good back up for the team. The youngsters would be looking this as an opportunity to impress few I-League clubs.
The Goa-India team consists of some of the best youngsters in Indian Football at the moment. Coach Neto is likely to adopt a 4-5-1 formation and this is how the starting eleven may look like
Albino Pereira; Leston Afonso, Ponif Vaz, George D’Souza, Meldon D’Silva; Nickson Castanha, Brandon Fernandes, Sahil Tavora, Aniston Fernades,Alesh Sawant; Myron Fernandes.
India-Goa has not done well in past two editions of the games. They have been thrashed by their opponents. This generation of boys has come up through good facilities and expected to perform well. The home advantage would play a crucial role and playing in front of home fans will boost this young, highly talented bunch of boys.