The 2023 Indian men’s football season will wind down when Bengaluru FC and Odisha FC will clash in the final of the Super Cup at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode on Tuesday.
While Bengaluru will be vying for their second Super Cup crown after winning the first edition in Bhubaneswar in 2018, it will be Odisha’s first attempt to claim any silverware.
Tuesday will be Bengaluru’s third final of the season. They lifted the Durand Cup in September last year, where they also met Odisha in the quarter-final stage. Roy Krishna’s 121st-minute winner made the difference in a nail-biting encounter on that occasion.
Bengaluru have had their fair share of tight matches in the Super Cup too. Simon Grayson’s men emerged toppers of a closely-contested Group A, finishing above Sreenidi Deccan FC, Kerala Blasters FC and RoundGlass Punjab FC with five points. In the semi-final, after keeping Jamshedpur at bay in the first half thanks to goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s heroics, Bengaluru powered through in the second half with goals from Jayesh Rane and captain Sunil Chhetri.
In the pre-match press conference, Bengaluru coach Simon Grayson said, “We went into the Super Cup with the ultimate aim to win it. It was disappointing to lose the ISL final after such a great run. But we mentioned after the game that we had another competition left to play and we’ll try to win that.”
If Bengaluru win the Super Cup, they will also contest the playoffs for the AFC Cup Group Stage against Gokulam Kerala. Representing India on the continental stage after two years is the main prize for the club, according to captain Sunil Chhetri.
“Winning the AFC Cup play-off will be the ultimate thing. Everything comes secondary. We have been fortunate to play in a lot of AFC tournaments, but we weren’t there in the last couple of years. We will do everything to get back,” said the skipper.
Chhetri also shared his experience of winning the Super Cup’s inaugural edition in 2018, where Bengaluru beat East Bengal 4-1 in the final. “We were in a similar situation back then when we went into the Super Cup after losing the ISL final to Chennaiyin. It wasn’t easy. But it was a great feeling to win the trophy. I hope we get that same kind of feeling tomorrow that we had after the final in 2018,” he said.
Odisha head coach Clifford Miranda tried to take the pressure of playing a first final off his players by saying, “To be honest, we don’t approach this match as a ‘first final’. For us, it’s another game where we have to do the right things against a very good opponent.”
Odisha have made a habit of coming from behind to win games recently. They made it to the last four after overcoming a one-goal deficit at half-time to beat Hyderabad FC 2-1 in their last game in Group B. In the semi-finals, Odisha found themselves a goal down against NorthEast United FC inside the opening minute, but Nandha Kumar’s brace turned the tie around for them before Diego Mauricio added a third late on to kill the contest.
“It’s the togetherness of the club,” is how Miranda explained his side’s fighting spirit. “We’ve got a strong-minded bunch of players, and I must give credit to them. We have some talented young players and experienced foreigners. They are one of the best I have worked with and not just in terms of quality but also the mental spirit and inclusiveness.”
Present with Miranda at the press conference was Spanish forward Víctor Rodríguez, who has scored two goals in the cup and formed a great partnership with the likes of Diego Maurício, Nandha Kumar, Jerry Mawihmingthanga and Pedro Martín.
“I’m very happy to be here. It’s easy to play with such good players like Diego, Nandha and Pedro. But working together as a team is the most important thing in Odisha. We’ve worked very hard for this moment, and hopefully, we win the trophy,” said Víctor.
The Super Cup Final between Bengaluru FC and Odisha FC will be telecast on the Sony Sports 2 channel and streamed on FanCode.