March 7, 2014 2:10:38 am
High flying Mizoram will look to extend their seven-match winning streak when they take on Tamil Nadu and a buoyant Railways face Maharashtra in the two semifinals of the 68th National Championships for Santosh Trophy at the Kanchenjunga Stadium on Friday.
Mizoram are the form side of this year’s nationals, steamrolling opponents en route the semifinal. The North Eastern side has won all four of their Final Round matches from Group A. Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, have won two and lost two in the final round. Finishing second in Group A with six points from 4 matches, the two-time finalists will look to exploit the only chink in Mizoram’s armour, their inexperience at this level.
H Vanthalthangla coached Mizoram’s best performance is the final round appearance in the 2012 edition of the Santosh Trophy in Cuttack. “Mizoram have been playing really well. They are very fast and have some fleet-footed players. We have to bring all our experience into play and capitalise on our chances,” Tamil Nadu coach CM Ranjith said.
The second semifinal could be a battle of attrition in the middle of the park with both Railways and Maharashtra boasting of a strong midfield. “It will be a touch and go affair,” Maharashtra coach Irenio Vaz said. “The battle will be won in midfield as both teams are very strong in the middle. I have been watching them for the last three games and I feel we have a slight advantage in defense but all that can go haywire on the given day,” Vaz added.
The Maharashtra midfield boasts of holding midfielder Praneel Mendon, central medios Vijith Shetty and former United Sikkim player Linekar Machado, former Churchill Brothers, Pune FC, and Air India man Paresh Shivalkar and in-form Shahbaz Pathan who has scored two crucial goals for his side the final round.
Railways also have a strong midfield with the likes of Dipankar Das, and Somi PT as fulcrums and former Kerala man Kenistan C and Sibra Narjary out wide. Narjary has been instrumental for Railways, scoring a stoppage-time winner against Tamil Nadu and also teeing up Jitendra Bramha for the all-important equaliser in the last minute of their tie against West Bengal.
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