Spreading the beautiful game across different regions of the country is one of the key objectives in Vision 2047, and the Federation’s plan to host the Hero Super Cup in Kerala, where both Hero ISL and Hero I-League have come together, is part of it. the-aiff.com is currently in Malappuram and Kozhikode and is following the progress of the clubs in the Hero Super Cup closely in a series of stories.
AIFF Media Team
MANJERI: The second semi-final of the 2023 Hero Super Cup will be a historic occasion as Odisha FC and NorthEast United FC will go head-to-head to go one step closer to winning their first-ever silverware. The match will kick off at 7:00 pm IST at the Payyanad Stadium in Manjeri on Saturday, April 22, 2023.
Odisha qualified for the semi-finals as Group B winners with seven points. After a 1-1 draw with East Bengal FC on the opening day, they responded with back-to-back wins over Aizawl FC (3-0) and Hyderabad FC (2-1). In the latter game against last season's Hero ISL champions, they came from behind at half-time to secure victory and a place in the semi-finals.
Odisha head coach Clifford Miranda was delighted with his team's performances, especially in the last game. He said, "We were on the back foot after Hyderabad scored early, but we managed things well in the second half - got the equaliser and controlled the game thereafter. I'm pleased with how the boys have performed so far."
Star striker Diego Maurício, who won the Hero ISL Golden Boot this season, scored two and assisted two in the group stage, and Miranda is well aware of his indispensability to Odisha. "Diego is not just about scoring goals. He creates a lot of chances and works hard for the team. He is a fighter," he said.
The Bhubaneswar outfit did the double over NorthEast United in the Hero ISL this season (2-1 home and 3-1 away), but the circumstances are quite different in the Hero Super Cup given how Floyd Pinto's side have surprised everyone with their final four qualification.
"NorthEast United have qualified from a similar situation as ours. They won their last two games and scored 10 goals, the second-highest in the group stage (Jamshedpur scored 11). They've got one of the best strikers in the ISL - Wilmar," said Miranda.
Wilmar Jordán was the talk of the town after scoring four goals in NorthEast United's 6-3 success over Churchill Brothers on Wednesday. Wary of his threat, Miranda said, "We cannot stop him with one player. It has to be a collective effort from the team if we are going to neutralise him."
NorthEast United head coach Floyd Pinto was all praises for the Colombian and is eager to see even more from him tomorrow. "Wilmar is in the team to put the ball in the back of the net. That's why you pay the big bucks for strikers," said Pinto. "Ever since he joined the club, he has taken responsibilities not just as a striker, but also as a captain. He's well-supported by his teammates on and off the pitch. I hope to see more of the same against Odisha."
NorthEast United had nothing to lose coming into the Hero Super Cup on the back of a last-placed finish in the ISL. They got off to a poor start with a 2-4 defeat at the hands of Chennaiyin FC but showed great fighting spirit to stun Mumbai City FC 2-1 before thrashing Churchill 6-3. NorthEast's better head-to-head record over Mumbai City booked them a historic semi-final spot.
"More than the qualification, what was important was the way we played and the performances we put on, especially in the last two games," said Pinto. "After the ISL, we had to set a standard. I think the last two games have shown that this is the minimum requirement for every player who comes to the club. Our qualification is the by-product of our performances and results," he added.
The Hero Super Cup semi-final between Odisha FC and NorthEast United FC will be telecast on the Sony Sports 2 channel and streamed on FanCode.