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Friday, 29 Sep 2023
By Dhiman Sarkar

Will Bryce spice contest for the left side?

Bryce Miranda (Source: Instagram)

Bryce Brian Miranda was spread-eagled on the Xiaoshan Sports Centre Stadium pitch when Samuel Kynshi and then Sunil Chhetri walked up to pat him. Congratulations were in order since Rahmat Mia’s challenge had felled Miranda and fetched a penalty. One that would have a big influence on whether India would get out of the group or go home early.

Of course, Sunil Chhetri still had to score but till he misses one, his one-step penalty routine is the closest to a certain goal for India. So, after the loss against China where India didn’t have enough outfield players to make five substitutions, Miranda bursting through and being felled by the Bangladesh skipper was a pivotal moment. One that along with Rahul KP’s wondergoal and the penalty Rahim Ali won took India out of the group for the first time since 2010 and only the second time this century.


A natural left-footer

In the time of inverted wingers, Miranda is old school. He hugs the left touchline waiting for a ball, sprints when he gets it and tries to deliver into the box. Driving inside, like, say, Liston Colaco is not for this player from Mumbai whom Renedy Singh first saw in when he was East Bengal’s assistant-coach. Miranda was at Churchill Brothers playing in the I-League.

Renedy recalled seeing a hard-working player and a natural left-footer. “Can’t remember seeing too many from when I began,” said Renedy, now Bengaluru FC’s assistant-coach. Jo Paul Ancheri, Alvito d’Cunha, Clifford Miranda and Sahal Abdul Samad were his top-of-the-mind recalls of attacking left-footed players from 1996, when Renedy stepped out of Tata Football Academy and joined Mohun Bagan, to now.

For context, Renedy is a natural right-footer who worked on his other leg to become one of India’s most reliable wide left players, one who had a 13-year international career and led both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. I owe so many goals to him, Chhetri had said when they were together at East Bengal in 2008-09.

Miranda started all group stage games in Hangzhou, scootering down the left, delivering balls into the box, taking corner-kicks and winning fouls. He and Abdul Rabeeh Anjukandan have been revelations in an Asian Games campaign that has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, India not being able to take their full complement of 22 players being just one of them.

Rabeeh, he is called that, has shown he can play in different positions: defender, wide right and even in central midfield. For Miranda, only left has felt right.

“100% in training”

Till he cramped against China and against Bangladesh and Myanmar, Miranda was an outlet to stretch play. “He is fast and delivers well,” said Renedy. But football has come a long way since that was all such players were expected to do. He needs to work on getting into defensive positions faster, said Renedy. It is a mental shift, Miranda has the speed and strength to do that, he said. Evidence of the point Renedy made came in the opening game, the sternest test India faced before Saudi Arabia.

But then, Miranda turned 24 one day before the game against Myanmar. From turning out in the Mumbai league, I-League, being part of FC Goa’s development squad, playing under Igor Stimac in India’s under-23 team in 2021, to his second season at Kerala Blasters, Miranda has worked his way up. And on getting stronger. It has led to a chiselled upper body he doesn’t mind flaunting.

There is a lot to learn but it would be a fair assumption to think he wouldn’t shirk. “He always gives his 100% in training,” said India defender Pritam Kotal, now Miranda’s teammate at Kerala Blasters. “But now, that everyone knows how he plays, now that the spotlight will often be on him, it will have to be seen how he can add to his game,” said Kotal, the most-capped player in ISL.

Though he has been better as a wing-back than as attacking midfielder, in a season that has the Merdeka Cup in October, the World Cup qualifying cycle from November and the Asian Cup in January, Miranda’s form is good news. Especially because Ashique Kuruniyan is unlikely to be available because of injury.

With Colaco hitting form (yes, yes, I know the season is only two games old), Mahesh Naorem off to a good start, Ritwik Das likely to return from injury and Bipin Singh staying integral to Mumbai City FC’s plans, the possible addition of Miranda would make for a stiffer contest for the left-side attacking player. Lallianzuala Chhangte too can play in that position and usually does, shifting from the right when Udanta Singh is introduced.

Possibly an unintended consequence of ISL preferring foreigners in the team’s spine (leading to Indians being used as full backs and wide players), India is well-stocked with players who can sortie on the flanks. Nandhakumar Sekar, Udanta, Rahul KP, Manvir Singh and Chhangte are some of the options on the right and on both sides, there are full backs who have speed. As Rahul showed leaving the Chinese defender trailing in his wake, that’s always a good thing.



Take a bow, Phalguni Singh: The first week of the Indian Super League (ISL) saw another packed house in Kochi, one barren draw and Mohun Bagan Super Giant, Odisha FC, Mumbai City FC and Kerala Blasters begin with wins. It also saw NorthEast United’s midfielder Phalguni Singh take the field on Sunday hours after his father died in the 1-2 loss to Mumbai City FC. In the late 1990s when FC Kochin were a thing, young goalkeeper Dinesh Nair had done the same when first-choice Sumit Mukherjee was not available.

Phalguni Singh playing for NorthEast United (Source: X/Twitter)

Ref changes mind: This too happened in the opening round of ISL 10. Referee I Jamal Mohamed showed the red card to Emil Benny of Jamshedpur FC and the player walked off without protest. Having pushed an East Bengal player, Benny possibly had felt he he deserved what he got. Not so, the ref. When he realised what had happened, Mohamed called Benny back. He only wanted to caution him, you see, and had taken out the wrong card. Watch video here

Mumbai City FC shift venue: So Neymar Jr, if he comes with Al Hilal along with Ruben Neves, Kalidou Koulibaly, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, will be playing Mumbai City FC in Mumbai (or Navi Mumbai) instead of both teams travelling to Pune. Mumbai City FC have announced that their Asian Champions League home tie against Al-Hilal will be at DY Patl Sports Stadium on November 6. Regular readers will know that a club owned by City Football Group not being able to host an Asian Champions League game at home was raised in last week’s KickOff. The shift is only for one game though.

Club president shot: Colombian second division club Tigres FC announced that their president, Edgar Paez, was fatally shot after the team lost on Saturday, says AP. According to local media reports, the 63-year-old Paez was driving home with his daughter after a home loss to Atletico FC when he was shot by two men on a motorbike close to Tigres' Metropolitano de Techo stadium in Bogota. His daughter was not hurt .

New deal for Tsimikas:Liverpool defender Kostas Tsimikas has signed a new long-term contract with the Premier League club, says AFP. Tsimikas had agreed to a five-year deal when he joined the Reds from Olympiakos in 2020, but the length of the 27-year-old's new contract has not been disclosed. He has one Premier League appearance this season as a substitute against Bournemouth and started last week's Europa League win against LASK in Austria.

Osimhen upset: Victor Osimhen's agent has threatened legal action against Napoli after a video was published on the club's official social media mocking the Nigeria striker for missing a penalty in the weekend's goalless draw at Bologna, says AFP. The TikTok post, since deleted, showed Osimhen failing to score his spot-kick in the Serie A match with a high-pitched voice saying, “gimme penalty please”, sparking a furious reaction from Roberto Calenda. “What happened today on Napoli's official profile on the TikTok platform is not acceptable. A video mocking Victor was first made public and then, but now belatedly, deleted," Calenda said.

Rapinoe exits in style: Megan Rapinoe got a triumphant send-off, and the United States beat South Africa 2-0 on Sunday. Trinity Rodman and Emily Sonnett scored, and the US sent their captain towards retirement with one final victory as a member of the national team, reports AP. The 38-year-old Rapinoe was presented a framed jersey representing her 203 international games. “I know that I am a liked player,” she said. “And, I know that I mean a lot to the game. But, to have this night come and to actually feel it and see it — from my teammates, from our staff and certainly from the fans, who have been such a huge part of our success on and off the field, really — it was very special,” she said.

United States forward Megan Rapinoe (15) is splashed with water after the game against South Africa in her last national team appearance at Soldier Field (Source: Reuters)

Partial return for Russia irks Ukraine: UEFA moved towards partially reintegrating Russia into European soccer and Ukraine responded that it would boycott competitions the country it is at war with is playing in, says AP. The European soccer governing body decided to try reintroducing Russian under-17 teams into its competitions this season easing the blanket ban on national and club teams imposed within days of the Russian invasion in February 2022. UEFA said it was “aware that children should not be punished for actions whose responsibility lies exclusively with adults and is firmly convinced that football should never give up sending messages of peace and hope.” Reacting to this, Ukraine urged other UEFA members to also refuse to play Russia.

Ticket to Paris for Canada: Cloe Lacasse and Jordyn Huitema scored and Canada defeated Jamaica 2-1 in the second leg of the teams' Olympic qualifier to secure a berth at next summer’s Paris Games, says AP. Canada, the reigning Olympic gold medallist, had won the first leg of the CONCACAF qualifier 2-0.

Nagelsmann Germany coach: Germany hired Julian Nagelsmann, 36, to lead the men's national team, entrusting the former Bayern Munich coach with doing a better job than the last Bayern Munich coach who tried, says AP. The German federation said Nagelsmann was taking over on a short-term contract through next year's European Championship. Germany is hosting the tournament.

Xavi’s extends deal:Barcelona coach Xavi has announced that his contract extension with the Spanish champions had been confirmed and will be made official shortly. The former Barca midfielder, who took over as coach in 2021, will extend his contract by one season until 2025. Xavi led the club to their first La Liga title since 2019 and the Spanish Super Cup last season.

Ajax in free fall, fans angry

Furious Ajax fans threw flares on to the pitch as they trailed bitter rivals Feyenoord 3-0 (Source: Getty Images)

It happened at Ajax’s home and it happened because fans were angry at the team. At the Johan Cruyff Arena when Ajax hosted Feyenoord, the match had to be called off when the visiting teams was leading 3-0 because fans threw fireworks on the pitch. Ajax fans then tried to storm the stadium’s main entrance and had to be restrained by the police who used tear gas. Hours later, Ajax fired their director of football Sven Mislintat who had joined in May. In the ‘Klassieker’ restarted on Tuesday after 55 minutes behind closed doors, Ajax lost 0-4. Only one win and two draws have left Ajax 14th in the Eredivisie, already 10 points adrift of table-topping PSV Eindhoven. This is their worst start to the league since 1964/5, when Cruyff had just begun in the youth team.

They said it

When you hear fans and neutrals talk about Tottenham, they often say 'soft, weak, bottle it, Spursy', all that rubbish.

James Maddison after Tottenham Hotspur came back twice to hold Arsenal 2-2 in the Premier League.

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Written by Dhiman Sarkar. Produced by Nirmalya Dutta.

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