The Meghalaya football team have made their maiden entry into the semifinals of the National Football Championships for the Santosh Trophy and will be taking on a strong Punjab team in the semifinals at the King Fahd International Football Stadium, here on Wednesday.
Nerves will be jingling for the players when they step onto the hallowed turf on which legends like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have played and which is the home ground for the Saudi Arabia national team that played in the World Cup last year.
However, there is one thing that looks familiar to Meghalaya head coach Khlain Syiemlieh -- the weather which he said feels similar to what it is at this time in his state capital Shillong.
The team has reached only two days back and is gettingacclimatised to the conditions. "The climate conditions are quite similar to those in Shillong, Meghalaya. So, I believe it will not be a big problem for my players," Khalin said in the pre-match press conference here on Tuesday.
Meghalaya are the Cinderella team of the 76th edition of the Santosh Trophy as they surprised everyone by making it to the semifinals.
Khlain said his players will not be under much pressure as reaching the semifinals is akin to victory for them.
"This time the preparations of our team are very good, right from the first round, the final round until now. We have reached the semifinals for the first time and that is like a win in itself for us. Tomorrow, we are playing in the semifinals against Punjab and that too in Saudi Arabia, so it's a big challenge for us. We keep motivating the players by telling them this," said the coach.
Meghalaya face a big challenge when they take on Punjab, who are eight-time champions of the Santosh Trophy and have a rich history in the National Football Championship.
"Yeah, actually Punjab is a very good team. They qualified from the first round in Manipur and they beat Manipur, which is the home team. In the second round, they qualified from a very tough group like they were with Kerala, last year's champion in Santosh Trophy.
We know that Punjab have a rich history in the Santosh Trophy. But we have been analyzing very well, and we have planned very well. I hope tomorrow we have a different plan for them, so I hope tomorrow that we will have a very positive result," said Khlain.
His skipper Fullmoon Mukhim said it will not matter to his players that they are playing on foreign soil, with or without spectators and have travelled a long distance to reach Riyadh for this match.
"That doesn't matter. It's in our hands how we keep ourselves motivated for the match. Once we enter the ground, it should not be a matter of concern for us. It depends on what we are feeling in our hands. We should be brave. Whether we play in the heat or with or without supporters, it doesn't matter. It depends on how well we have prepared and how well we execute our plans," said the skipper.
Both the coach and captain said it will be their best endeavour to execute their plans on the field on Wednesday. If Meghalaya have their way, there could be another surprise in the Santosh Trophy.
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