Top 5 Players Left Out of the Indian National Team for the matches against Afghanistan

KBFC players celebrates as Rahul Kannoly Praveen scores a goal against CFC (ISL) (1)
Rahul KP missed out on the squad despite striking the woodwork in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup

India head coach Igor Stimac announced a 25-member squad for the two FIFA World Cup Qualifiers encounters against Afghanistan. The Croatian gave maiden call-ups to players like Jay Gupta and Imran Khan for their exceptional performances in the Indian Super League

The squad for the upcoming friendlies is:

Goalkeepers: Amrinder Singh, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Vishal Kaith

Defenders: Akash Mishra, Amey Ranawade, Anwar Ali, Jay Gupta, Mehtab Singh, Nikhil Poojary, Rahul Bheke, Subashish Bose

Midfielders: Anirudh Thapa, Apuia, Brandon Fernandes, Deepak Tangri, Imran Khan, Jeakson Singh, Liston Colaco, Naorem Mahesh Singh, Sahal Abdul Samad, Suresh Wangjam

Forwards: Lallianzuala Chhangte, Manvir Singh, Sunil Chhetri ©, Vikram Partap Singh

However, the fact that he could select only 25 players in his squad has left behind some players worthy of selection. India will square off against Afghanistan away from home on 22nd March, before locking horns at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on 26th March. 

A win in both these two matches would virtually guarantee India a berth in the third round of FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. Only a draw against Kuwait in the home encounter on 6th June should suffice for the Blue Tigers to take them to the next round. On that note, here is a look at the top five players left out of the Indian National Team for the matches against Afghanistan. 

#5 Rahul KP

Rahul KP’s blistering pace down the right flank can wreak havoc against the opposition. It was evident in the 2023 Asian Games against China when he cut into the box and curled the ball past the goalkeeper to equalize for the Blue Tigers. 

In the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, after coming on as a second-half substitute against Uzbekistan, Rahul sprinted past his marker and hit the woodwork in the 50th minute. It took Uzbekistan two defenders to man-mark him and avert his danger for the rest of the game. The pacy winger has failed to find the back of the net in this ISL season and would be hoping to come useful in the run-in to the playoffs after getting some rest during the next two weeks.

#4 Rowllin Borges 


Rowllin Borges has been one of the standout performers for Goa recently

Rowllin Borges has found his goalscoring boot this season with three strikes to his name from 15 matches. His knack for being at the right place and at the right time in set pieces has come in handy for the Gaurs.

Against Kerala Blasters, Borges gave Goa an early lead after finding himself at the end of a corner kick. Before India’s Asian Cup sojourn, Borges once again scored against the Blasters after receiving a cross from Victor Rodriguez’s free kick. That goal turned out to be the winning goal in a 1-0 fixture. 

With Stimac favoring the stability provided by Jeakson Singh, Deepak Tangri, Apuia, Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad, Suresh Wangjam, and Brandon Fernandes, Borges would have to prove himself in the crucial playoff matches to attract Stimac’s attention.

#3 Chinglensana Singh  

Chinglensana Singh was called up as one of the three senior players in the nation’s Asian Games campaign. Although he produced a commendable performance against Myanmar and Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia proved to be too strong for him. 

Chinglensana was signed by Bengaluru in the January transfer window and has slotted seamlessly in the back three setup of coach Gerard Zaragoza. The Manipuri lad has helped his side keep clean sheets against southern rivals Chennaiyin and Kerala Blasters in a bid to keep Bengaluru in the race to qualify for the playoffs. 

In the absence of Sandesh Jhingan, an experienced head like Chinglensana could have added some stability to the Indian defense but Stimac has preferred the trio of Anwar Ali, Mehtab Singh, and Subhasish Bose with Rahul Bheke also capable of filling in at the heart of defense.

#2 Pritam Kotal 


Pritam Kotal was recalled to the 2023 AFC Asian Cup squad but didn’t make any appearance

Stimac’s comment that Pritam Kotal needed to play as a right back and not as a central defender in the club set up to earn a national team call resulted in the veteran changing his position in Kerala Blasters. 

Kotal did earn a place in the India setup in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup squad but returned home without clocking a single minute and now finds himself out of contention. Ivan Vukomanovic has reiterated the importance of an experienced guy like Kotal to mentor youngsters in the squad but the national team has players like Chhetri and Gurpreet to provide guidance.

With four clean sheets this season for Kerala Blasters, Kotal has been a vital cog at the back for his club. He has won 26 aerial duels and made 58 recoveries from 16 matches. Odisha’s Amey Ranawade has earned himself a national team call in place of Kotal. It remains to be seen how he performs against Afghanistan because Kotal is waiting in line to regain his spot. 

#1 Bipin Singh 

Bipin Singh emerged as the standout player for Mumbai City in their title-winning 2020-21 ISL season after netting the winning goal. He earned a national team call after that and bagged an assist on his debut in a friendly against Oman. 

Bipin has made seven appearances for India, with his last one coming against Myanmar in March 2023. Since then, he has been off the radar with coach Igor Stimac favoring Manvir Singh, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Vikram Pratap, Naorem Mahesh Singh, and Liston Colaco on the wings. 

Even in the current ISL season, Bipin has played in the shadows of Vikram and Chhangte. The Manipuri lad has netted three goals in the ISL from 16 appearances and notched two goals. But given the fierce competition for the national side, he finds himself out of the reckoning.