It would the battle of the heavyweights in Indian football when the semi-finals of the 71st Santosh Trophy gets underway at GMC Athletic Stadium, Bambolim on Thursday. The four strongest teams of the tournament shall be engaged in a tight battle to make it to the title clash and fancy their chances of becoming the national football champion of the country.
Traditional powerhouses Bengal, Mizoram, Kerala and Goa sealed their spots in the last four courtesy their impressive showing in the league stages which enabled them to secure the top two spots in their respective groups.
The semis promise to be mouth-watering encounters with Kerala clashing against Goa and Bengal taking on Mizoram. The first of the semis between arch rivals Goa and Kerala is scheduled to begin at 3 pm followed by Bengal Mizoram tie at 7 pm.
Mizoram booked their semi-final berth with a sensational 5-1 routing of the Railways. The win enabled Mizoram to qualify for the last-four stage in second place from Group B behind Kerala. Last year’s runners-up Maharashtra scored a comfortable 2-0 win over Kerala but failed to qualify for the semifinals of the Santosh Trophy since they finished third in Group B.
Hosts Goa, who lifted the trophy in the 2008-09 edition, had a bumpy ride to the semis. They managed to edge past Meghalaya with a 2-1 win in their opening match, followed by dull draws against Bengal and Chandigarh. They ended their league campaign with a win over Services.
The victory would give them plenty of confidence ahead of their semis against Kerala. Kerala, on the other hand, have had a relatively easy ride to the semi-finals, qualifying with a game to spare.
Bengal who have won the Santosh Trophy for a record 31 times would like to add one more title to their kitty by making it to the summit clash. Meanwhile, Mizoram who have been the flag bearers of North East’s football along with Manipur won the coveted title in 2014.
So the stage is set for the big boys of Indian domestic football to dazzle with their skills and take their team one step closer to winning the National Championship.