Generally, before knockouts teams begin to put extra effort on polishing their penalty-taking skills. But Iranians seem hardly bothered about knockout prospects. Instead, they were busy simulating tackles during their practice sessions. They almost formed a line of three, one behind the other, and the defenders would have to deny the attacker from breaching them. It was not only the defenders who were assigned the marking duties but also their forwards and midfielders, too. Whether it was sneaking past defenders or stopping the defenders, the star was Younes Delfi, who effected a clutch of spectacular sliding tackles, besides winkling past his markers after swapping roles. No wonder, Iran has conceded just two goals in this campaign.
No Diwali crackers
The Spanish team slightly surprised because in Koch they didn’t see any extravagant Diwali fireworks. Their previous match in Guwahati, they had heard and read about the ostentatious bursting of crackers during the festival. Only that Kerala hardly celebrates Diwali, though it’s a government holiday. A few of Spain’s support staff inquired the hotel staff about it, who reciprocated with blank stares. Maybe, if they beat Iran in the quarterfinals, they might well see a few.
The English team arrived nearly an hour late for their practice session at the Holy Trinity Church ground in Benaulim. And it’s a good thing that they weren’t on time for it took their support staff nearly that long to get their sophisticated security camera system in order and working. That’s what it looked like anyway. A fancy CCTV camera attached to a hydraulically-operated street light pole with some impressive add-ons, like a bird-feeder which was actually a laptop stand, and even a joystick attached to it. It took another 15 minutes for the team analyst to then set up a high-speed internet connection and get all the cables in order.
The camera plugged in to the laptop, which in turn relayed a live-stream of the England under-17 team’s practice session to St George’s National Football Centre in Staffordshire. It’s a practice and preparation venue for all 28 English teams at various levels, including disabled, Futsal and those who represent the country in FIFA and UEFA competitions. Despite the fancy setup for the gizmo, certain basic issues remained, with the pole refusing to stay erect.