Santosh Trophy 2024: Focus On Traditional Powers As Eight Teams Battle It Out In Quarters


(MENAFN- IANS) Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh), March 3 (IANS) The focus will be on traditional powerhouses like Goa, Kerala, Manipur and Services as the 77th National Football Championship for Santosh Trophy reaches its business end with eight teams set to battle it out in the knockout stage, which begins at the Golden Jubilee Stadium here, on Monday.

Out of the 37 teams that started the competition, the event is down to the last eight that will fight it out for the top prize of the state championship in India. Services, Goa, Kerala, and Assam have made it from Group A of the Final Round, while Manipur, Mizoram, Delhi and Railways have qualified from Group B.

The first quarterfinal pits Services against Railways -- the two traditional institutional sides in the Santosh Trophy that are looking to revive their glory days as they move deeper into the competition. Services are six-time champions, while Railways have won the trophy thrice.

Services have been on top form since the start of the 2023-24 Santosh Trophy campaign, having suffered only one solitary defeat against Goa (1-2). After topping their group, they will look to make the semis for the third time in the last four editions.

Meanwhile, Railways will be looking to make it to the semifinals for the first time in a decade. Having netted just four in their five matches in Group B, they will need their forwards to be more clinical than they have been so far.

The clash between Goa and Delhi is between two sides that have experienced glory in the past, but have not had much to show far in more recent times. Delhi's only successful Santosh Trophy campaign came when they won the competition in 1944, while five-time champions Goa's last title came almost 26 years ago. The Goans have been fairly prolific in attack, with Necio Maristo Fernandes and Joshua D'Silva netting three apiece in the Final Round so far. Delhi, on the other hand, has had as many as seven different scorers in the Final Round so far but will need to mind their backline after conceding 10 goals in five matches.

Manipur and Assam, the two sides from the Northeast will cross swords on March 5 and have perhaps the least number of titles between them. While Manipur have won only one title in 2002-03, Assam are on the lookout for their maiden title. Manipur have been in sublime form in the Santosh Trophy so far and are yet to lose a single match this season, including both the Group Stage and the Final Rounds. Sanathoi Meetei has been on hot form, netting 10 goals in the Santosh Trophy so far, four of them coming in the Final Rounds. Assam, on the other hand, have had to toil on their way to the quarterfinals.

Assam's Dipu Mirdha, who had netted seven during the Group Stage, has only scored two in the Final Round, and his side will be looking to him to provide more upfront in the quarterfinal against a potent Manipur side.

A lot of the spotlight will be on Kerala as they take on Mizoram in the last quarterfinal on March 5. Kerala, seven-time champions, will have huge expectations on their shoulders after not making the semifinals in the last edition. The side from the West Coast has proved to be one of the most stringent teams in the Final Round, having let in only two goals so far.

Meanwhile, Mizoram, who won the competition exactly a decade ago, have impressed with their free-flowing game. They have scored the highest number of goals (13) in the Final Round, despite their highest scorer from the Group Stages, Lalkhawpuimawia (eight goals), not being there in the Final Round. MC Malsawmzuala (four goals) and Malsawmzuala Tlangte (three goals) have taken up the goalscoring responsibilities in Lalkhawpuimawia's absence.

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