When is the final, asked a Churchill Brothers player one day before the quarter-finals of the 122nd Durand Cup kicked off, more than a week ago.
Such confidence is rare but the player, a prominent member of the I-League winners, seemed convinced that he would have to stay in the Capital till the very end. That Churchill Brothers will be playing the final of the world’s third oldest tournament for the third consecutive time on Tuesday shows the faith he has in his teammates and in himself.
With Mohun Bagan keen on revenge (read: the 114th IFA Shield final) and chasing their 17th Durand Cup title, there is, however, no saying that Churchill Brothers won’t stumble at the final hurdle. If that happens, Mohun Bagan would be the tournament’s most successful team.
The teams’ progress to the summit round has been in contrasting style. Churchill Brothers looked jaded in their opener against Sporting Clube de Goa and were held by Assam Rifles but crucially for Mohun Bagan, found their rhythm against Dempo in the semi-final.
Mohun Bagan, on the other hand, destroyed ONGC first up, were fluent in their 2-0 win over JCT and always looked the better team in the semi-final against Mahindra United.
Like always, Okolie Odafa has been Churchill Brothers’ lynchpin but the team’s prolific Nigerian skipper has also been helped by Reisangmei Vashum and Robert Lalthanmuana. Odafa has scored twice and Karim Bencherifa, his former and Mohun Bagan’s present coach, felt that the only way to stop him is “by scoring goals though we are not focusing too much on him. Even Ogba Kalu and Vashum can be dangerous”.
“It is going to be a match between the two best teams in the country. Churchill are playing a team game,” Bencherifa said.
His counterpart, Carlos Pereira too spoke on similar lines. What might give Mohun Bagan a slight edge on Tuesday will be the presence of the in-form striking duo of Jose Barreto and Edeh Chidi. Having seen a red card in the semi-final, Chidi wasn’t part of the line-up that lost 0-2 to Churchill Brothers in the IFA Shield final recently.
Of the nine goals Mohun Bagan have scored in the tournament, Barreto and Chidi have struck seven. While the Nigerian leads the tally with four, the Brazilian is placed second with three goals.
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