Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) outfit FC Goa announced their squad for the AFC Champions League campaign last week. The Gaurs are in Group E (West Region) that has the likes of Persepolis FC (Iran), Al Rayyan SC (Qatar) and Al Wahda (United Arab Emirates). The final squad selected by head coach Juan Ferrando includes four foreigners as per the Asian Football Confederation’s rules. Among these four, one must be from an AFC-affiliated country, a criterion filled by Australian defender James Donachie.
The other three foreigners in the Gaurs squad are captain Edu Bedia, Jorge Ortiz and Ivan Gonzalez, which means Hero ISL 2020-21’s Golden Boot winner Igor Angulo and DHL Winning Pass of the League winner Alberto Noguera had to miss out. Ferrando spoke to fcgoa.in ahead of his team’s first match against Al Rayyan SC in Goa on Wednesday and admitted that team selection wasn’t easy at all this time.
“Obviously, it has been a difficult process and needed me to make some very tough decisions. At FC Goa we have good footballers – both on a professional as well as personal level. All of them have been working really hard and doing their best for the team. Regarding the selection of foreign players from the ones I had to select from, I have nothing but praise for Ivan (Gonzalez), Igor (Angulo), Edu (Bedia), Jorge (Ortiz), and Alberto (Noguera).
“I thank them for the good work and all their efforts over the last [few] months, not only [for their display] on the pitch but also [for their] helping everyone and have to highlight their commitment to helping the team improve every day,” said the 40-year-old.
When asked if the presence of defenders Donachie and Gonzalez meant that there was more focus on fortifying the backline, Ferrando replied: “Half an hour before taking the final decision, I spoke to some players such as James Donachie as he was not feeling fine over the last training session. I had one defender who was injured and another recovering after injury. So, I found myself with 3 players in the defensive line with physical issues and had to strengthen that area more as we will be playing 6 matches in just 20 days.
“I then spoke to my players about the reasons why I took the decisions that I did. If all the players had been available and feeling fine, I would probably have taken a different decision but the reality is what I described.”
In his first season in the Hero ISL with the Gaurs in 2020-21, Ferrando guided the team to their sixth semis appearance before losing to eventual champions Mumbai City FC on penalties. When asked how far he has come in terms of his understanding with the Gaurs players having spent quite a few months with them now, the Spaniard said: “I always try to help the players improve with each passing day. And despite a great campaign in the Hero ISL, I am aware that the team still has a lot of room for improvement. Our goals are still far. My mindset is not to think about what we have done so far but always to think of what is left to do to get closer to our goals.”