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Odisha FC Set To Face Central Coast Mariners in AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semifinal

Indian Super League (ISL) table toppers Odisha FC are set to face Central Coast Mariners FC in the AFC Cup Inter-zone play-off semi-finals.

The Kalinga Warriors will travel to Australia to take on the Mariners for the two-legged semi-finals, with the first leg being an away fixture on March 7. Then on March 14 they will welcome the opponents at the Kalinga Stadium for the second leg.

Odisha FC Set To Face Central Coast Mariners in AFC Cup Inter Zone Semifinal Image Credits X Twitter Odisha FC Set To Face Central Coast Mariners in AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semifinal
Odisha FC Set To Face Central Coast Mariners in AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semifinal, Image Credits- X (Twitter)

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Central Coast Mariners Secure Victory, Setting Up Showdown with Odisha FC in AFC Cup

Odisha FC got to know about their opponent after the Central Coast Mariners defeated familiar foes Macarthur FC in the ASEAN zone semi-finals on Thursday.

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Having scored late goals by both the teams, the match went into extra time after ending 1-1 in regulation time. And if it was not for Ronald Barcellos, who found the back of the net in the 120th minute the game was heading for a penalty shootout after the teams scored one each again in extra time. Ronald Barcellos made it 3-2 and driving his side through to the next round in the debut campaign in the AFC Cup.

The Central Coast Mariners, who are currently second in the table, trailing by five points behind Wellington Phoenix FC in the A-League, are two-time A-League Championship winners.

The Juggernauts are also in a brilliant form in the ISL as well as in cup competitions. They showcased their resilience and hard work playing in their debut continental competition, defeating fellow league Indian Super League (ISL) side Mohun Bagan Super Giant, Bangladesh’s Bashundhara Kings, and the Maldives’ Maziya S&RC in the group stage to come out on top in the South Asia Zone in the AFC Cup 2023-24.

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Odisha FC have undergone continuous growth, under the guidance of Sergio Lobera, having suffered just one defeat in their last 19 matches across all competitions. In the recently concluded Kalinga Super Cup last month, they were the Runners-Up and are currently league leaders with an impressive 31 points from 15 matches.

What Next for Odisha FC?

Sergio Lobera’s team is now poised to demonstrate their skill against Central Coast Mariners in the upcoming two-legged semi-finals, aiming to secure a place in the Inter-zone play-off final.

Odisha FC vs Mohunbagan Super Giants Image Credits ISL Website Odisha FC Set To Face Central Coast Mariners in AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semifinal
Odisha FC vs Mohunbagan Super Giant, Image Credits- ISL Website

The Inter Zone Semi-Finals winners will then face off in a two-legged Inter Zone Final.

Eventually, the winner across those two legs will progress to face the winner of the West Zone Final on May 5 in a showpiece event to crown the AFC Cup champions.

In the event Odisha FC win the AFC Cup, they will receive an indirect slot into the 2024-25 AFC Champions League Elite through the preliminary rounds.

The AFC Cup champions will pocket around 1 crore, with the runners-up collecting around 50 lakhs.

Sergio Lobera, Odisha FC head coach was satisfied with his team’s performance after they played out a goalless draw against Mohun Bagan Super Giant at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on 24 February 2024 Saturday in the Indian Super League (ISL).

Both sides fought toe-to-toe from the offset, keeping intact their defensive organization, which made it hard to break the standstill. The Mariners, however created plenty of promising goalscoring moves with Armando Sadiku and Manvir Singh coming close to scoring.

Odisha FC continue to be placed at the top of the table after securing a point against Habas’s side with 32 points in 16 games.

Odisha FC Image Credits ISL Website 1 Odisha FC Set To Face Central Coast Mariners in AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semifinal
Odisha FC, Image Credits- ISL Website (1)

For me, it’s very important what you deserve, not only what you get. And I think today the team played a very good game. It was a very equal game. I think we played against maybe the strongest team in India, and we competed very well,” Sergio Lobera said in the post-match press conference.

I think when you are not getting three points, you are not happy. But as a coach, I cannot ask more of my players because they fought till the end,” he added.

Maybe it’s a fine result. Because in the end, it was a very equal game. But in terms of clear chances, maybe we have very clear chances with Roy Krishna, especially. Analysing this game, I think maybe one point is not enough, but it’s good; it’s fine,” he commented.

We are not feeling pressure (at the top of the table). We are feeling excited to make our dream come true.”

Odisha FC Image Credits X Twitter 1 Odisha FC Set To Face Central Coast Mariners in AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semifinal
Odisha FC, Image Credits- X (Twitter)

Maybe the pressure is on other teams, for whom it is compulsory to win and finish at the top of the table. I think we are in a very good position. We are at the top of the table today; they need to win games to reach there. But now we are in a good position. Obviously, you always want to be in the best position possible. But today (against Mohun Bagan SG), unfortunately, we cannot get three points. But I am happy with the performance of my team,” he continued.

“Every game now is like a final. We are going to play six games, and all the teams involved in some situations are like a final,” he said.

We are going to play against East Bengal FC and Chennaiyin FC, but we need to put the focus on the next game and try to do our best because, as I told you, every game now is crucial for each team that is fighting for something,” he concluded.

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