Indian national football team head coach Igor Stimac has named a 28-men list of probables that will be making the trip to Qatar. The final squad will be released after completing the quarantine procedure and training before the start of the last phase of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
The Blue Tigers currently have 3 points from their first 5 matches and will start their last phase of AFC qualifiers with a match against Qatar on June 3 followed by crucial matches against Bangladesh and Afghanistan on June 7 and June 15 respectively.
Let’s have a look at the 28-men list set to leave India for Doha to play the all-important matches that might decide the third place in the Group E of the qualifiers.
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Dheeraj Singh
Defenders: Pritam Kotal, Rahul Bheke, Narender Gehlot, Chinglensana Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Adil Khan, Akash Mishra, Subhashish Bose
Midfielders: Udanta Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Liston Colaco, Rowllin Borges, Glan Martins, Anirudh Thapa, Pronoy Halder, Suresh Singh, Lalengmawia Apuia, Sahal Abdul Samad, Mohammad Yasir, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Bipin Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan
Forwards: Ishan Pandita, Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh
Skipper Sunil Chhetri has returned to the national team fold after missing the two friendlies in March due to Covid-19. Brandon Fernandes, Sahal Abdul Samad, Subhasish Bose, Rahul Bheke, Narender Gehlot, and Pronoy Halder also return to the national side after missing a couple of friendlies in March due to various reasons.
Goa midfielder Glan Martins has earned a first call-up to the national team after putting in impressive performances throughout the group stage of AFC Champions League held in April. But many notable players have also been excluded from the 28-men list, let’s look at the five most high-profile names absent from Stimac’s team.
Raynier Fernandes is unlucky to miss out on the spot in the touring party as the Indian midfield is currently stacked with the talents of Anirudh Thapa, Apuia, Suresh Singh, Rowlin Borges, Glan Martins, and Sahal Abdul Samad. The 25-year old is equally adept in playing in central midfield areas and on the right side of the midfield as well. Fernandes made his debut for India in June 2019 in a 3-1 loss against Curacao and also featured in the 1-0 win against Thailand three days later. The Mumbai City midfielder featured in the current AFC qualifying campaign in a 1-1 draw against Bangladesh as he was introduced off the bench for 22 minutes.
Mandar Rao Dessai struggled to adapt in the Mumbai City squad after playing for Goa in the initial six seasons of the Indian Super League. Mandar’s consistent performances in the Goa jersey allowed him to make his way into the Indian team. After the emergence of young Akash Mishra in ISL 2020-21, Dessai has lost his spot in the squad to Mishra.
The 29-year old is primarily a left-back or a left-sided midfielder but has often been used in the right flank as well. Dessai was called up for the AFC World Cup qualifiers against Oman and Guam in June 2015, but he stayed on the bench for the entirety of both games. Four years later, Mandar made his India debut in a 4-2 loss against Tajikstan in the Intercontinental Cup. Dessai was part of the historic 0-0 draw against Qatar in the ongoing World Cup qualification campaign and also featured Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Ashutosh Mehta has been a rock-solid figure in defence for every team he has played for in his senior professional career. Starting out with Mumbai, Mehta represented his hometown club for five years before switching to ISL sides Pune City, Mumbai City, and then ATK.
Mehta was also part of the Aizawl squad that shocked everybody and won the I-League 2016-17 title. Since then, the defender has won the I-League title with Mohun Bagan in the 2019-20 season, and Mehta was also a part of the NorthEast United squad that made it to the semi-finals in the 2020-21 ISL season.
Primarily a right-back, Mehta finally earned his first call-up to the national team at the age of 29 and made his debut in a 1-1 draw against Oman in March 2021. According to sources, Mehta has picked up an injury and hence was ruled out of the World Cup qualifiers in June.
Jeakson Singh’s versatility to play as a central holding midfielder, a centre-back, and the ability to pop up with an odd goal makes him an asset to any squad. But Stimac has gone with Narender Gehlot as the fourth centre-back option in the squad instead of Singh.
Jeakson rose to fame with his goal in the U-17 World Cup back in 2017, and after playing as a central midfielder for three seasons, the teenager was deployed as a centre-back for the latter half of the 2020-21 ISL campaign. Like Mehta, Jeakson made his debut in the 1-1 draw against Oman in March but Stimac has dropped the teenager in the hope that he makes a spirited comeback in the coming months.
Time and again, Seriton Fernandes has proved himself as one of the best right-backs in the country and prides himself to do the job for the country when given a chance. Fernandes captained Goa in two of their six AFC Champions League fixtures in April and played in all CL fixtures. Stimac called up the 28-year old in March 2020 for the World Cup qualifiers, but the defender had to wait for more as the Covid-19 pandemic stopped all sporting action around the world. In March 2021, the national team coach once again named Seriton is his 35-men list of possible picks for a trip to Dubai but the Goa right-back backed out due to an injury.
Back to full fitness, Fernandes was raring to represent the national team, but a positive Covid-19 test has deflated the defender’s hopes of making his debut for the Indian national side as he would have to wait a few more months before donning the Blue Tigers jersey.