Rahul Bheke and Michael Soosairaj are two of the prominent names to feature in our list.
When Stephen Constantine announced his probable 34-man squad for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup a lot of questions were asked. While many selections were inevitability, there were several others whose inclusion drew criticism. More than the selections, a lot of fans criticized the absence of several players who have been performing well throughout the season.
We discuss the five key omissions from the 34-man squad:
5. Brandon Fernandes
For an Indian team that needs creativity in the middle of the park, Brandon Fernandes would have been a valuable addition. The FC Goa midfielder has recovered well from his injury at the beginning of the campaign and has cemented a place in the Gaurs’ starting lineup.
The former Churchill Brothers midfielder has been phenomenal for his side, notching up two goals and as many assists in just 510 minutes of playing time. His versatility and skill on the ball would have been an asset for India at the tournament.
4. Adil Khan
It might be a little surprising to see someone from an underperforming team like FC Pune City in the list, but Adil Khan‘s stats say otherwise. The Goa-born midfielder has been a defensive wall in front of the back four, preventing any sort of forays from opposition.
The Pune City star has made a league-high 66 tackles already and has also made 13 interceptions and 33 clearances to go with it. The midfielder’s solid defending is also supplemented by his good passing. Adil currently has 71.94% passing accuracy in the 12 matches he has played. His strong performances are also one of the main reasons behind Pune’s current revival.
3. Jobby Justin
If there is one Indian player that stands out in the I-League for his performances, it’s Jobby Justin. The Kerala-born striker has excelled for East Bengal, scoring on a regular basis, netting five goals in seven matches for the Red and Gold Brigade. The free-scoring striker has already endeared himself to the East Bengal fans by scoring in the Kolkata Derby.
Justin’s form is one thing that makes him stands out and the 25-year-old should definitely have been selected ahead of the underwhelming Sumeet Passi, especially considering the fact that the Blue Tigers will need all their players in roaring form to make a mark.
2. Rahul Bheke
The biggest surprise and criticism Constantine’s 34 man squad has faced has been to do with the exclusion of Bengaluru FC left-back Rahul Bheke. The full-back was left out despite putting in strong performances for his team in the Indian Super League. Fondly called “Bhekenbauer” by the fans, the 28-year-old has evolved into a key figure in Carles Cuadrat’s system, putting in amazing shifts both in defence and attack, which resulted in him being named the ISL Fans’ Player of the Month for November.
Bheke has featured in all eleven matches this season for the Blues and has two goals and an assist to his name already. He has managed to exert his presence efficiently, scoring in important matches. His exclusion was so surprising that along with several fans, even his club teammate Erik Paartalu took to Twitter to express his disapproval.
1. Michael Soosairaj
The Jamshedpur FC midfielder cum winger shot to prominence in the 2017-18 season, when he was named the Best Midfielder in the I-League by the All India Football Federation (AIFF). He was duly signed by Jamshedpur for the current term and has continued to impress.
This season, Soosairaj has already scored three goals in 10 games, also grabbing a brace and the Hero of the Match accolade in his side’s thumping victory over FC Goa. His exclusion was indeed a surprise for many, especially considering the fact that Constantine picked inexperienced youngster Komal Thatal ahead of him.