Head coach Igor Stimac named a 25-member final squad for the two matches in September.
Indian football team manager Igor Stimac has announced his 25-man squad for the upcoming International Friendlies against Nepal next month. India will play their neighbours in two friendlies in Kathmandu. The first game will take place on September 2, followed by the second friendly match three days later.
The Men in Blue are preparing for the upcoming friendlies in a 15-day national camp in Kolkata. Stimac’s side also played two games against local sides as preparation for the friendlies and won both. The tactician had earlier named a 24-member preliminary squad, excluding ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC players for the national camp.
With players from both teams returning to the country after the conclusion of their AFC Cup campaign, Stimac has now named a 25-member final squad for the upcoming friendlies. The squad will assemble in Delhi on August 29 and will leave for Nepal a day later.
While a number of prominent names feature in the final Indian football team squad, there are some visible absentees. Be it experienced campaigners or impressive youngsters from the last Indian Super League (ISL) season, Stimac has made some interesting decisions. So, let’s look at the top five players dropped by the manager for the upcoming friendlies against Nepal
5. Adil Khan
Adil Khan had a very topsy-turvy time in the last ISL campaign. He was reduced to a bench player at Hyderabad FC for the first half of the season and moved to FC Goa on loan in January. Khan did play a few games with the Gaurs towards the end of the season, but couldn’t help them keep any clean-sheets.
The 33-year-old also featured in their AFC Champions League campaign, but was very underwhelming against formidable oppositions. It doesn’t look like Khan has been able to turn his fortunes in the training camp. Despite the absence of Sandesh Jhingan, Stimac has opted against picking an experienced defender like Adil – with only Chinglensana Singh being the natural centre-back in the squad.
4. Halicharan Narzary
Halicharan Narzary looked a man rejuvenated under Manolo Marquez at Hyderabad FC last season. He put in some extremely impressive performances and adapted to the Spaniard’s style impressively. Narzary scored four goals for HFC last season and was the fourth highest-scoring Indian in the ISL.
Narzary was also part of the Indian football team national camp in Kolkata and played in both friendly matches against the IFA XI and Mohammedan SC. But, he was left out from the final 25-member squad named by Stimac on Friday. Narzary will have to be more prolific in the ISL next season to get back into the national team.
3. Asish Rai
Asish Rai was one of the most consistent Indian defenders in the ISL last season. The young right-back put in some commendable performances for Hyderabad FC at both ends of the pitch. Rai registered two assists in 18 appearances for the Nawabs last season, but his defensive work was also admirable.
The 22-year-old made 75 tackles, 51 interceptions and 59 clearances last season, helping Hyderabad keep seven clean-sheets in his 18 appearances. Rai featured in India’s friendly games against the Kolkata sides – including the recent one against Mohammedan Sporting. However, he couldn’t do well enough to warrant a place in the squad, with the likes of Rahul Bheke, Pritam Kotal, and Seriton Fernandes all selected ahead of him.
2. Ishan Pandita
Ishan Pandita returned to India to feature regularly for the Indian football team. Now, he finds himself excluded from the Blue Tigers’ squad. This is a surprising exclusion, but not exactly one you would find hard to believe. Pandita proved his credentials with FC Goa last season, scoring four times from the bench. He was also part of India’s squad for the friendlies in March and also at the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Qatar, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Pandita featured in both friendlies against Oman and the UAE, but could not prove himself as an able No. 9. The 23-year-old also scored in the 2-0 win over Mohamedan SC recently. However, that wasn’t enough to warrant him a place in the squad.
1. Udanta Singh
Udanta Singh is arguably at the worst point of his professional career. His exclusion from the India squad probably sums up his decline over the last few years. The Bengaluru FC winger lost his ‘regular’ status in Stimac’s side earlier this year and things have gotten worse for him. The Croatian manager was clearly not impressed with Udanta’s performances in the AFC Cup.
Singh played all three games for Bengaluru FC in the AFC Cup group stage, scoring once and registering two assists in the Blues’ 6-2 win over Maziya S&RC. But, the 25-year-old was extremely inconsistent in the other two games. In the end, Stimac didn’t see Udanta as a vital part of his squad. Singh will hope to take this as motivation to get back to his best.