Top 5 Players not picked in the Indian squad for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup

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Ruivah Hormipam somehow missed the plane to Qatar

Indian national football team head coach Igor Stimac named the 26-member squad last week and the players arrived in Qatar on the cusp of entering the 2024 calendar year.

The 26-member squad selected by Stimac includes skipper Sunil Chhetri and other experienced stalwarts like Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Sandesh Jhingan, and Anirudh Thapa while the uncapped Deepak Tangri has also made it to the plane.

Full squad

Goalkeepers: Amrinder Singh, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Vishal Kaith.

Defenders: Akash Mishra, Lalchungnunga, Mehtab Singh, Nikhil Poojary, Pritam Kotal, Rahul Bheke, Sandesh Jhingan, Subhasish Bose.

Midfielders: Anirudh Thapa, Brandon Fernandes, Deepak Tangri, Lalengmawia Ralte, Liston Colaco, Naorem Mahesh Singh, Sahal Abdul Samad, Suresh Singh Wangjam, Udanta Singh.

Forwards: Ishan Pandita, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Manvir Singh, Rahul Kannoly Praveen, Sunil Chhetri, Vikram Partap Singh.

The likes of Vikram Partap Singh, Rahul KP, and Ishan Pandita would be hoping to make an impact in substitute appearances if they get onto the field while Sahal Abdul Samad is expected to sit out the first match against Australia completely to recover fully before the Mohun Bagan Super Giant midfielder plays alongside the likes of Apuia, Brandon Fernandes, Anirudh Thapa, Suresh Wangjam, and Tangri in the middle of the park.

However, beneath all the headlines and the players who were called up for the quadrennial tournament, a bunch of players missed the cut and will be representing their respective clubs in the 2024 Kalinga Super Cup. 

Let’s take a look at five players who could have walked into the 2023 AFC Asian Cup squad of the Blue Tigers. 

#5 Rowllin Borges (Goa)

With 35 international caps under his name, Rowllin Borges would have expected to make the squad ahead of uncapped players like Deepak Tangri who barely played a minute in the ISL before Anirudh Thapa and Sahal Abdul Samad were injured in the midst of the season.

After being one of the best central midfielders in the league for many years, Borges barely made a starting appearance in the 2021-22 and the 2022-23 ISL season, playing a bit more than 500 minutes. 

Earlier this year, the 31-year old midfielder moved to Goa and has scored four goals in 600 minutes of game time across the 2023 Durand Cup and the 2023-24 ISL season over the last five months. A rock in the form of Borges could have solidified Stimac’s side behind creative midfielders like Apuia and Fernandes.

#4 Chinglensana Singh (Hyderabad)

Chinglensana Singh has been outwrestled from the central defenders’ race

Chinglensana Singh was a regular feature in Indian squads between 2021 and 2023 but the Manipur-born defender had to pull out of the Indian camp for the 2023 Intercontinental Cup which led to versatile full-backs Pritam Kotal, Rahul Bheke, and Subasish Bose who could fill in the central defender position staking a claim on the defensive positions in the squad.

The emergence of Lalchungnunga and Ruivah Hormipam has also led to the Hyderabad defender being among the reserves after forming a solid central defensive partnership with Jhingan for India for a couple of years in the national team jersey.

The Nizams’ central defender attracted attention after forming a solid defensive partnership with Odei Onaindia for Hyderabad and the 27-year old player also lifted the ISL 2021-22 title with the club which is now making losses every day and could soon be defunct.

#3 Kiyan Nassiri (Mohun Bagan SG)

Kiyan Nassiri is a rising star amongst the Indian forwards but Stimac decided to leave him out of the 26-member squad in favor of Ishan Pandita.

While Ishan has failed to get off the bench in many ISL matches this season as Dimitrios Diamantakos and Kwame Peprah continue to score the goals, Kiyan has started multiple matches in various positions nailing down a position in the Mohun Bagan SG starting XI over the last few fixtures before the ISL season was halted for the continental extravaganza.

Despite being talked about across the country as a shining diamond amongst the thin resources India has in attack, Nassiri was ignored by Stimac despite having good stats in the league.

#2 Bipin Singh (Mumbai City)

The Mumbai City forward has been one of the best Indian attackers over the last few ISL seasons and Bipin Singh was a sure-shot stay for the Asian Cup squad a few months ago but a turbulent time in Mumbai over the last three months allowed Rahul KP to steal the march into the 26-member squad.

Bipin Singh has been prolific in goal for Mumbai City in the ISL

Bipin’s tally of 18 goals and 9 assists in the 2020-21, 2021-22, and 2022-23 ISL seasons dwarfs the stats of Rahul KP over those three seasons as the Kerala Blasters forward scored 6 goals and provided 4 assists and is yet to break his deadlock in the league in the ongoing season as well.

On the international front, Bipin has a solitary assist in 7 appearances while Rahul has no goal contributions in six appearances for the national team but his raw pace decided the battle in his favor. The Thrissur-born forward would want to get his name on the scoresheet if he gets a chance to impress on the continental stage.

#1 Ruivah Hormipam (Kerala Blasters)

Ruivah Hormipam was an ever-present in the Kerala Blasters starting XI that qualified for the 2022-23 ISL playoffs. The Manipur-born defender has proven to be capable of defying world-class attackers and has once again resumed duties in the heart of the league leaders’ defense. 

Hormipam made his Indian national team debut against Belarus but hasn’t been seen in the Indian jersey for a long time. In Anwar Ali’s enforced absence, many expected Stimac to name Hormipam as one of his defensive stalwarts but the Croatian head coach has decided to stick with his regular names for the upcoming tournament.

The 22-year old defender would be part of the Blasters squad that will aim to win the 2024 Kalinga Super Cup without skipper Adrian Luna while the Blue Tigers would be hoping to navigate the tough challenges against Australia, Uzbekistan, and Syria without any raw pace in the heart of the defense.