Railways will try to break their 48-year old jinx while Mizoram will look to become first-time lucky when the two sides cross swords in a high voltage title clash of the 68th National Championships for Santosh Trophy here Sunday.
Railways last triumphed in the Santosh Trophy way back in 1966. On the other hand Mizoram — who had not surfaced on the football scene back then —would be chasing their maiden title since the Northeastern side’s emergence in the mid eighties.
“It has been 48 years since we last won the Santosh Trophy, and 27 years since our last Final appearance. Tomorrow’s match means so much to us. A win can bring us back in the fold,” Railways head coach Souren Dutta, who was only a year old in 1966, said.
Railways last made it to the final in 1987. They have previously won the tourney thrice, finishing second best on five occasions. “It is a great opportunity for Mizoram also to get their name in the history book. They have been the best team in the tournament so far and have won all their matches. It will be a difficult match,” Dutta added.
Railways will be without the services of their two first choice centre-backs Vimal Kumar and Rajiv Boro, both suspended for the final owing to double booking. “It will be a miss for sure having to play without your regular stoppers. But that cannot be an excuse. This is the time for the others to step up,” Dutta said.
Centre-back Akhil Rajbanshi and either of midfielder Dipankar Das or full back Mohd Sayeed are set to replace the suspended duo. Mizoram have no injury or suspension concerns as such ahead of the match slated to be held at the Kanchenjunga Stadium. Talking about their strategy for the final, Dutta informed: “We will look to block them in midfield catch them on the counter. They attack all out so if we can try and hurt them on the break.”
His counterpart, H Vanlalthlanga did not reveal much. “We will play our natural game and according to our philosophy. Railways are a very fast side and I have seen them improving with every match. They will be high on confidence after that morale-boosting semifinal win. It will be a good match,” the coach said.
Mizoram have won all their eight matches leading up to the final. Railways on the contrary have had hitches en route, losing to Assam in the Zonals and then dropping four points in the final round which eventually did not matter as they trounced Goa 3-0 to qualify for the semifinal.