With the AFC Asian Cup fast approaching India boss Stephen Constantine has a final chance to tweak the nuts and bolts of his squad for the tournament.
The Indian football team will play Jordan in a friendly in Amman on November 17 to continue their preparations for the AFC Asian Cup 2019. This will be the first such encounter to be played between the two sides. The match will be played at the King Abdullah II International Stadium at 9:30 PM IST.
India are currently ranked 97th in the FIFA rankings, with Jordan sitting in 112th. Interestingly, the India U-16 side under Bibiano Fernandes recently met their Jordanian counterparts twice and defeated them on both occasions. If the senior side can emulate that feat, it would be a massive preparatory win for the Blue Tigers.
With the club season in full swing, Stephen Constantine has a plethora of players to pick from and fans can expect some chopping and changing to the squad to face Jordan. Some players like Jeje Lalpekhlua have blown hot and cold and haven’t performed up to the expected standards, with club coach John Gregory pushing him to the bench.
Here, we take a look at five names that have not been called up to the national team in the recent past, but certainly deserve their place in the squad. Sadly, they don’t look likely to make the squad until the AFC Asian Cup, or until Constantine stays at the helm.
5. Lenny Rodrigues
Sitting right behind the central midfield, 31-year-old Rodrigues is certainly attaining his passing peak at the moment. In a midfield that comprises Ahmed Jahouh and Edu Bedia, Rodrigues has held his own, helping the side to the top of the table with four wins and a draw in six games. The team have scored 18 times, with the former Bengaluru FC midfielder content with orchestrating the rhythm from deep.
Lenny Rodrigues (L) is currently in red-hot form
Lenny has started every game and has played until the final whistle in four of them. Concurrently, Pronay Halder has been part of a less impressive ATK side, having conceded eight times in six games. While Halder can’t be marked out singularly, it is Rodrigues who deserves a call-up to the squad at least. If not a place in the playing XI.
The move will also add challenge to the midfield, that may have a lot of play-breakers at the moment, but less passers. Constantine may add this new dimension to his plans going forward and there’s no flip side to it either.
4. Robin Singh
This man. Oh yes, this same man again. A lot of people would hate his inclusion, some would outrightly loathe it, but let’s face it: he’s the best second option India have got and now that he’s fit and running, he deserves a place on the bench at least. Coincidently, India’s premier #9 Jeje Lalpekhlua is having a massive off season at a crunch time and this calls, even more, for his inclusion.
With Jeje Lalpekhlua off-form, Robin Singh could be a viable option for the Blue Tigers
Admittedly, He holds the ball for far too long, gives up possession when he should be doing better and isn’t the fastest at tracking back. But, he’s the most towering presence India have and thus should be used accordingly. While Balwant and Jeje should still get their chances, if there’s nothing fruitful happening, sending in a box marauder isn’t a bad option.
3. Brandon Fernandes
With Sunil Chhetri injured and out, who’s going to be the creative spark? Most fans would look at FC Goa’s Brandon, who has been on a roll since last season. Adept at playing anywhere in the attacking third behind the striker, Brandon, as a commentator calls it, has the perfect weight behind most passes. He can control the tempo of the game, if a side is rallied around his style.
Returning from a suspension of three games, Fernandes scored a peach of a goal against the Dynamos, turning the game on its head. Goa came from behind to win the game 3-2, and the #10 had a massive role to play in the same. In the last game against Kerala Blasters, he managed another assist and the thread looks unlikely to stop.
How @BrandonFern10 isn’t in the @IndianFootball squad is beyond me?! Last season was one of the best in @IndSuperLeague & after being out this season, has come straight back in and doesn’t look like he’s missed a step! #QualityPlayer
— Iain Hume (@Humey_7) November 11, 2018
The 24-year-old is maturing and given the right chance, he can still play a part in India’s journey at the Asian Cup, where his participation could be a very important addition to the Blue Tigers.
2. Adil Khan
Khan hasn’t been on fire so far this season, but it has a lot to do with the scene behind him on the pitch. He has played in the central midfield, defensive midfield, centre defence and has also made runs into the box. Versatility – his description. Khan will add a lot to the squad, with his fiery style of play. He’s close to the Dhanpal Ganesh India has lost to injury.
Khan scored goals last season and was one of the reasons for Pune’s good run. He also had a superb campaign with Churchill Brothers the season prior to that and his consistency is something that has helped him build a reputation over the last two years.
1. Michael Soosairaj
Easily the most developed player in the last two seasons in Indian football, Michael Soosairaj’s journey from Chennai City to Jamshedpur FC has been nothing short of a treat. The lad who assisted heavily and scored handsomely last season for his hometown club has continued in the same vein, scoring thrice for the Tata Steel-owned club, winning them key points.
Soosairaj (L) is one of the highest Indian scorers in the ISL this season
Soosairaj’s positioning is his most valuable asset. The youngster is hardworking, makes off-the-ball runs and helps his midfield while defending. He is part of everything his club is doing at the moment and looks set to be an important player for the national team in the future. The question is, why not now? He’s fit, he’s on song and your most creative threat (Chhetri) is out.