These players proved their worth with spectacular performances in the competition.
The Durand Cup 2021 ended up being a resounding success – kicking off the Indian football season in grand fashion. FC Goa emerged as the winners – becoming the first-ever Indian Super League (ISL) team to achieve the feat.
The competition itself had everything. From a flurry of goals, late drama and a lot of extra-time in the knockout stages, it ended up being a thrilling affair. A number of players shone for their respective teams, but only a section were the cream of the crop.
That being said, let’s have a look at the Durand Cup 2021 Team of the Tournament:
Goalkeeper: Kuzang Bhutia (FC Bengaluru United)
FC Bengaluru United maintained one of the sturdiest defensive records in the Durand Cup. Their goalkeeper Kuzang Bhutia played a vital role in that. He kept two clean-sheets in four games, including one against finalists Mohammedan Sporting.
Not just that, but the 27-year-old also came up with big saves in both games against Mohammedan SC. Bhutia finished the Durand Cup with the joint-most clean-sheets, barely missing out on the Golden Glove award.
Right-Back: Ajith Kumar (Bengaluru FC)
Given the captaincy by Bengaluru FC, Ajith Kumar led from the front to take a young BFC side far in the Durand Cup. The 24-year-old slotted in as a right-back, showcasing incredible energy in games.
Ajith was defensively quite sturdy, keeping some quality wingers quiet and producing impressive performances against Kerala Blasters and FC Goa. His liveliness and leadership helped BFC stride their way to the semi-finals.
Centre-Back: Shaher Shaheen (Mohammedan Sporting)
Mohammedan Sporting’s new centre-back signing Shaher Shaheen made a bright impression in his debut tournament. The 31-year-old looked comfortable at the back, making crucial challenges time and again to avert danger. Shaheen’s dominant presence, aerial ability and physicality helped the Black Panthers bully many opposition attackers.
Shaheen held his own against some formidable strikers, even keeping the in-form Devendra Murgaokar quiet in the final. The experienced centre-back proved he’s ideal for the Indian football scene and should play a big part in their I-League title charge this season.
Centre-Back: Lalhmangaih Sanga (FC Goa)
One of FC Goa’s youth academy products, centre-back Lalhmangaih Sanga (aka Papuia) was one of the finds of the tournament. The young defender showed incredible character to play regularly for the Gaurs in the exhausting competition. He did not crumble under pressure, bullying forwards with some sharp defensive work in all the games.
Papuia helped the Gaurs keep multiple clean-sheets en route to the final, doing an admirable job to nullify the dangerous Willis Plaza’s threat in the quarterfinals. Papuia also excelled in the final. He kept Joseph quiet and helped nullify Mohammedan’s attacking threat – helping his side win the competition and bolstering his reputation within the Indian football scene.
Left-Back: Parag Shrivas (Bengaluru FC)
Coming off a pretty encouraging AFC Cup campaign, Parag Shrivas was one of BFC’s more experienced players in the Durand Cup. However, the versatile defender proved he’s more than ready to flourish for them this season. Shrivas was a really industrious figure for BFC all through the competition, putting in some hard-working performances.
He bullied players on the wings, making good use of his physical attributes and energy levels to help the young BFC side punch above their weight. Shrivas put in an encouraging performance in BFC’s semi-final loss to FC Goa, proving that it’s time he gets game-time in the ISL.
Central Midfielder: Nikola Stojanovic (Mohammedan Sporting)
Mohammedan Sporting’s newest midfield general Nikola Stojanovic was also among the stars of their campaign. He made a prominent impact in the first game against the Indian Air Force, providing two assists and basically running the show.
His impressive work continued as the tournament progressed, as Stojanovic’s defence-splitting passes and excellent set-pieces helped create a lot more chances. The Serbian midfielder lit up their gameplay with his stylish passes and will aim to do even better to help them win the I-League this season.
Central Midfielder: Ajay Chhetri (Bengaluru FC)
Young Ajay Chhetri showed a lot of maturity in the Durand Cup for Bengaluru FC, despite only being 22. The central midfielder put in some efficient performances, helping etch together attractive attacking moves with his slick passing.
He also helped protect the BFC backline, working hard to trouble opposition midfielders and neutralizing their flow. Chhetri ended the tournament with one goal, a penalty scored against the Indian Navy. But, his composed performances in midfield mean that the youngster should get more chances in the ISL this season.
Right Winger: Deepak Singh (Army Green)
Army Green were arguably the most impressive services team in the Durand Cup. They made it out of a tough group, piping Jamshedpur FC to qualify for the knockout rounds. One of their heroes in the successful campaign was winger Deepak Singh.
The right winger caused chaos with his clever movement in the final third and was efficient upfront. Singh scored three goals for Army Green in the competition, helping them get wins over Jamshedpur and Sudeva Delhi in the group stages.
Attacking Midfield: Muhammed Nemil (FC Goa)
A huge reason behind FC Goa’s Durand Cup dominance was their young sensation Muhammed Nemil. The 19-year-old midfielder led their title charge from the front & produced some excellent performances through the competition. Nemil scored four goals and registered a couple of assists for the Gaurs, tormenting oppositions with his unpredictability in the attack.
The 19-year-old’s impressive ability to carry the ball forward, tendency to exploit spaces in attack and shooting ability helped him excel. Nemil was one of Goa’s shining stars of the competition and could be their own wildcard in the ISL.
Left Winger: Marcus Joseph (Mohammedan Sporting)
After playing a major role in Gokulam Kerala’s Durand Cup win in 2019, Marcus Joseph continued his excellent work in the competition this year. Joseph was Mohammedan Sporting’s attacking engine, producing one clinical performance after another.
The Trinidad and Tobago forward scored five goals in six games, proving himself to be a clinical goalscorer. Joseph’s impressive dribbling ability and slick finishing helped him bag many goals and take Mohammedan all the way to the final.
Centre-Forward: Devendra Murgaokar (FC Goa)
In the Durand Cup 2021, Devendra Murgaokar proved that he’s more than ready to start games upfront for FC Goa. The electric forward buzzed around the attacking areas with a lot of spark in games, tormenting defenders with his movement.
Devendra also showcased diverse finishing ability, scoring goals using his both feet and head. Murgaokar ended the tournament as the joint-top scorer. His clinical performances have certainly impressed coach Juan Ferrando, who has spoken highly of the youngster’s performances as well his versatility to play anywhere in the attacking third.