There has been plenty of competition for places under the new regime of Igor Stimac and these players missed the cut for the games against Oman and Qatar.
Since Igor Stimac has taken the reins of the Indian national team, he has handed opportunities to several youngsters to don the colours of the Blue Tigers ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
The Croatian tactician has tried different strategies and formations with different personnel in his starting XI. Despite a poor showing in the Intercontinental Cup, he must have found his best combination to rely on ahead of the all-important qualifiers.
However, after he named the 34 players to join the national camp ahead of the games against Oman and Qatar, we at Khel Now take a look at the top five players who did not get the rub of the green, despite their impressive showing in the domestic circuit.
5. Seriton Fernandes (FC Goa)
Defence has been a major issue for Stimac’s men and it was evident with the drubbings against Tajikistan and North Korea. While having young, inexperienced options at the heart of the back four, the Croatian does not have enough dynamism on the right flank. He has tried Pritam Kotal, who is highly inconsistent and Rahul Bheke, who has looked out of sorts when playing on the right side.
Hence, the former Zadar manager could have handed an opportunity to Seriton Fernandes, who was a livewire for FC Goa last season in the Indian Super League and the Super Cup. Buoyed by his excellent work rate, Seriton is very composed on the ball, with overlapping runs being his major strength. With 88 tackles and 32 crosses last season for Sergio Lobera’s side, the full-back has developed his defensive side of things massively.
4. Lenny Rodrigues (FC Goa)
Another player from the Gaurs who was absolutely stellar in midfield last season. Lenny Rodrigues has been a workhorse that allows the likes of Edu Bedia and Ahmed Jahouh to play freely. The former Bengaluru FC man, under the tutelage of Lobera, has added another bow to his arrow, that is passing. With 87.35% passing accuracy in deep midfield along with 33 interceptions and 75 tackles, Lenny was simply a metronome in the Goa midfield.
The Indian national team has also struggled to find a proper destroyer in midfield. Stimac has tried different players in that position and none of them has been efficient. With his physical presence adding to his passing and defensive output, it is hard to explain why Rodrigues fails to make the cut for the Blue Tigers.
3. Laldanmawia Ralte (East Bengal)
Probably one of the most creative and prolific wingers in the I-League for the last couple of seasons, Laldanmawia Ralte has always been overshadowed by his ISL counterparts in recent times. Last season, Ralte became East Bengal’s main threat from the flanks as he fed balls to the likes of Enrique Esqueda and Jobby Justin in a stellar I-League campaign.
Another thing which is impressive about Laldanmawia is his ability to score in pressure situations. He scored eight goals in the I-League last season and was responsible for numerous attacking build-ups. The 26-year-old winger from Aizawl is probably in his prime and his ability to play in different positions in attack also adds more weight to his case.
2. Bilal Khan (Kerala Blasters)
The Blue Tigers are packed with top goalkeepers in their ranks. The current squad includes, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Kamaljit Singh and Vishal Kaith. However 24-year-old Bilal Khan was sensational for Real Kashmir last season. Bilal recently joined Kerala Blasters thanks to his terrific performances for the Snow Leopards last campaign, where they conceded the least number of goals.
Bilal is physically well-built and is strong at defending set-pieces. He is also very vocal with his defenders and marshalled them around really well last campaign. The former FC Pune City custodian has also developed his ability to play out from the back and is decent with his distribution as well. Hence, it was a risk worth taking for Stimac, considering the recent blemishes from Sandhu.
1. Michael Soosairaj
Michael Soosairaj was part of India’s squad to the King’s Cup 2019
Soosairaj is the most unlucky candidate of all in this list. While others were not even considered for the national team, the winger was in the final squad which went to Thailand for the King’s Cup. The former Jamshedpur FC man also featured in a game for a few minutes, failing to make a mark. Ever since then he has been overlooked by Stimac.
Soosairaj has already shown that he is extremely versatile and his impressive performances for the Men of Steel were a testament to his capabilities. However, the Croatian should have given the 24-year old more time to settle into the team.
Soosairaj scored four goals last season in the ISL, but the midfielder is also a great ball progressor and adds more dynamism to the team with his ability to take on opposition defenders at will. The current ATK man also knows his defensive duties, as he managed 29 tackles last season, which suggests that he tracks back and helps out his defenders.