While there is a right balance of experience and young talent in the squad chosen for the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers, here is a list of the top 5 players who missed out on the 28 men squad picked by Igor Stimac.
5) Mandar Rao Desai
Mandar Rao Desai, the veteran left-back, currently holds the record for the most-capped player in the Indian Super League (ISL) history with 114 appearances. He played in the introductory season of the ISL for FC Goa. The 29-year-old seems to have been around forever but only made his professional football debut in 2013 for Dempo SC. During his time at Dempo, he was loaned to FC Goa and played in the inaugural season of the ISL, and switched between Dempo and FC Goa before making a permanent move to the Gaurs in 2016.
Mandar was loaned to Bengaluru FC in 2016 and made nine appearances while getting on the score-sheet once during his stint with the Blues. He returned to his parent club, FC Goa, and was the first-choice left-back for the Gaurs, under head-coach Sergio Lobera. When Lobera moved to Mumbai City FC in 2020, Mandar followed suit. He is currently the Indian Super League (ISL) winner with the Islanders and made 15 appearances for them in the title-winning season.
For all his experience in the Indian Super League (ISL), Mandar has only represented the Indian National Team on six occasions. Again, with him not being part of the 28 men travelling squad for the World Cup Qualifiers, he and many others might start to ponder what he may have to do other than be a consistent player to earn a place in the National side.
4) Rahul KP
Rahul Kannoly Praveen, commonly called Rahul KP, was born in Thrissur, Kerala, on the 16th of March, 2000. He is a promising footballer who started playing for the Thrissur district team in the U-14 category and went on to play for the Kerala football team. His outstanding performances in the U-14 National Championships got him a place in the AIFF Elite Academy, which was set up to prepare players for the U-17 World Cup in 2017, held in India. After the U-17 World Cup, he was selected to play for Indian Arrows, along with others, to give the players much-needed game time to develop and grow.
During his three-year spell with Indian Arrows, he made 37 appearances and scored five goals. He was also the first Indian to score in the Indian Super Cup against Mumbai City FC in 2019. After spending three years at Indian Arrows, he moved to the Indian Super League (ISL) outfit Kerala Blasters in 2019. He has already made 25 appearances for the Blasters and found the back of the net on five occasions.
The pacy winger can run riots in the opposition third, is very strong, and despite being 5ft 6, has an excellent leap and can beat taller opponents in the air. He is not hesitant when it comes to taking on full-backs, dribbles well, and, most importantly, can run at defenders for the full 90 minutes. In the 20-21 ISL season, Rahul has arguably been one of the most important assets for Kerala Blasters. His exclusion from the 28 men squad might upset many Indians, especially from the south.