PUNE: On Saturday when FC Pune City’s head coach Ranko Popovic walked into the press conference room of the Balewadi Sports Complex, he was asked the obvious question about Pune reaching their maiden semi-final of the Indian Super League on Sunday.
Everyone in the room knew that it was just a matter of time that what was given and on the card will get the seal from the league.
Despite suffering a 4-0 defeat, their worst of the season, against FC Goa, Bengaluru FC’s 2-0 win over Jamshedpur FC meant that the Stallions will play in the semi-finals.
On Monday, Indian Super League authorities confirmed that Pune has qualified for the play-offs and need not wait until their final league game of against Delhi Dynamos on March 2.
FC Pune City is placed second on the ISL points table with 29 points and even if they get stranded on 29 points at the end of the league stage, they will finish among the top four.
There is a possibility that four teams can finish their league engagements with 29 points; if Pune lose against Delhi; Chennai lose against Mumbai, Jamshedpur win against Goa and Mumbai register two consecutive victories in their last two matches.
In the event of teams being tied on points, the head-to-head record between these teams will come into force.
As things stand, Pune will win the head-to-head count among all these teams with 12 points—two wins each against Mumbai City and Jamshedpur FC—while Chennaiyin FC and Jamshedpur FC will also get the nod.
Assuming that FC Goa get the better of Atletico de Kolkata, and Jamshedpur FC in their last two matches, they will qualify with 30 points, possibly leaving three teams with 29 points.
Even then, FC Pune City will still go through.
On Saturday, Popovic had talked about making a history with the club as the Stallions had failed to make the last four in previous three seasons.
Although his troops have achieved the primary target of the season, work needs to be done to achieve the ultimate goal.
“As a club, this was our first hurdle to clear; to reach the playoffs. The entire team has worked consistently towards the same goal and this spot is a result of the hard work put in by everyone and anyone involved with the club,” Popovic said.
“But this isn’t the end of our work, rather it’s the beginning and we hope to take a step at a time to reach our ultimate goal,” the Serbian 50-year-old further added.