Review of the 2022 Durand Cup: A fitting start to the Indian football season
At the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday, the 131st iteration of Asia's oldest club football tournament came to a satisfying conclusion with Bengaluru FC taking home the Durand Cup after defeating Mumbai City FC 2-1.
Prior to that, the Durand Cup had it all this year: some ISL heavyweights lived up to their billing, some stumbled, an I-League team created a flutter and declared their arrival, and a once-giant took steps toward the top once more. The tournament was fun to watch with 130 goals in 47 games, giving the audiences in the three venues (Kolkata, Imphal, and Guwahati) the majority of what they paid for.
We ponder the 2022 Durand Cup:
The top two teams in the competition were the two finalists. The style differences between Bengaluru and Mumbai City could not be more pronounced, but that made for an exciting final match.
Bengaluru appears to have abandoned the high-pressing tactics tried by Marco Pezzaiuoli last season in favor of a strong defense and counterattacking structure under Simon Grayson, and that has led to success returning. They finally won a trophy after 1,281 days, ending a brief drought.
Mumbai City, on the other hand, remained true to its CFG-inspired possession and ball retention tenets. While the pace of Bipin Singh and Lallianzuala Chhangte remained a constant threat, the arrival of Greg Stewart and Alberto Noguera has given them additional skill in the final third.
Odisha is playing more fluid football now that Josep Gombau is back in charge. They didn't give up a goal during the group stage, and it took a Roy Krishna screamer in the final second of overtime to eliminate them from the tournament.
Mohammedan Sporting should also be mentioned because Mumbai City just narrowly defeated them in the semifinals. They were more than able to compete with the two finalists because to the inspiring leadership of Marcus Joseph and their boisterous Kolkata crowd, and they had already earned a point against Bengaluru in the group stages.
Greg Stewart has basically continued where he left off the previous season. Stewart is elusive, two-footed, and has the capacity to drift throughout the last third. Stewart eventually finished as the second-highest scorer in the competition with six goals. However, he gave Mumbai City more than just goals; with his exceptional vision for a pass, he always made sure that wide players and another new addition, Jorge Pereyra Diaz, were a constant threat.
Football is Lallianzuala Chhangte's forte. Did it require reiteration? Perhaps it did? Only five goals in the last two ISL seasons was insufficient for a player of his caliber and seemed to undersell his abilities.
However, Chhangte might have discovered the perfect setting in Mumbai City for his aptitude and talent to materialize into output. He took home the Golden Boot for the Durand Cup with seven goals. Des Buckingham uses Chhangte on the right wing instead of the position he primarily played for Chennaiyin FC, allowing him to cut inside on his better left foot. Hopefully, this competition serves as a springboard for greater things in the ISL.
Finding of the Competition
Narayanan Sivasakthi. The teenage striker from Bengaluru had always been hailed as a tremendous promise, but look at him now—here, he's and how! Sivasakthi succeeded in doing just that, and in a final no less. It is difficult to break into a front two that includes Roy Krishna and Sunil Chhetri.
The super-sub continued to have a keen eye for goal and a natural ability to finish when he was a starter in the championship game. To have the audacity to push Mourtada Fall aside and attempt that chipped finish for his goal in the championship game is one thing; to really be able to pull it off is quite another.
The young man possesses all three: intelligence, mentality, and ability.
You could have gotten away with not paying much attention to Rajasthan United prior to the competition, especially since they were placed in a group with East Bengal, ATK Mohun Bagan, and Mumbai City. However, the I-League team sought it following their opening match.
Rajasthan advanced to the knockout stage ahead of the two Kolkata giants thanks to a remarkable comeback victory over Juan Ferrando's expensively prepared team, a draw against East Bengal, and a victory over the Indian Navy. Hyderabad defeated them in the conclusion of their voyage, but this was a team that was demonstrating to Indian football that they weren't there merely to fill seats.
The set is finished by The GOAT.
In his lengthy professional career, Sunil Chhetri won every competition offered in India with the exception of the Durand Cup. That is, up until Sunday night. His eighth championship with Bengaluru is currently.
Next, what? Regarding the Durand Cup
May it stay this way for as long as the schedule permits, with the ISL and I-League preseason tournament. Given the advancements that teams like Bengaluru and Mumbai made throughout the competition, it may become customary for all ISL clubs to participate in this competition with their first-team squads the next year, which would further enhance the spectacle.
Next, what? Regarding Indian Football
Before returning to club football (the ISL begins on October 7), the senior men's national team has a pair of friendlies against Singapore and Vietnam, but the form and fitness that the players have developed throughout the tournament is a huge boost for coach Igor Stimac.
Because of the extensive time between seasons, Stimac has frequently complained that players arrive at the national team camp underprepared, but this will no longer be the case.