How midfielders picked in India’s squad for Oman and UAE friendlies fared in Hero ISL 2020-21
The recently concluded Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) bore witness to the rise of some fantastic domestic talents all over the pitch. The 2020-21 campaign came to a close last week but there are further, bigger challenges that await these stars as India are scheduled to play Oman and the United Arab Emirates later this month in Dubai. Here we take a look at how the midfielders in Igor Stimac’s squad fared for their respective clubs in the 2020-21 season. It may be noted many of these youngsters received a national call-up for the first time after displaying a wide array of skills on the playing field in the 2020-21 Hero ISL.
Playing 20 matches for Mumbai City FC during their silverware-laden season, Rowllin Borges scored two goals and assisted one. His 57 interceptions were the most among his teammates and he also completed 80 tackles for his team. Borges, who boasted a passing accuracy of 82.47%, has already represented India in several games and will look to build on his current form in India colours later this month.
NorthEast United FC’s Lalengmawia’s strong performances this season earned him the Emerging-Player-of-the-Season award as well as a maiden national team call-up. In addition to his one goal, he was also a solid defensive presence alongside Khassa Camara in the Highlanders midfield, making 93 tackles and 46 interceptions in their run to the semi-finals.
The young Kerala Blasters FC defensive midfielder proved his versatility when asked to play in an unfamiliar centre-back role. The 19-year-old scored a solitary goal, and completed 48 tackles for his team. Jeakson Singh also made 26 interceptions, 21 clearances and 22 blocks for the Kochi-based outfit. For the first time, Jeakson makes it to the final squad.
A mainstay in the league shield and trophy-winning Mumbai City FC squad, Raynier Fernandes performed as per expectations. He has already represented India in a few games and had a formidable passing accuracy of 78.58% and also helped out his defence with 77 tackles, 15 interceptions and 18 blocks.
23-year-old Anirudh Thapa has been a fixture in the Indian team in recent years and makes the cut yet again, although he endured an injury-ridden campaign with Chennaiyin FC, making just 14 appearances. He scored two goals for the Marina Machans and came up with 30 tackles, 30 interceptions and 18 blocks to boot.
A revelation for Mumbai City FC this season, Bipin Singh scored six goals and provided four assists for the Islanders during their successful Hero ISL season. He also scored the season’s only hat-trick (against Odisha FC) and will be a pacey option for Stimac on the wings. In terms of goal-contribution, he is joint-highest Indian along with Sunil Chhetri. It’s his maiden call-up.
Mohammed Yasir is one of six Hyderabad FC players to make it to the India squad after a strong campaign with Manuel Marquez’ side. The 22-year-old midfielder assisted two goals for the Telangana-based club and completed 43 tackles as Hyderabad FC missed out on the top four by a whisker. It’s his maiden call-up.
Suresh Wangjam got a lot more minutes on the pitch than he did last season. He scored a goal for the Blues, and was a solid defensive presence in front of their backline, making 68 tackles and 19 interceptions for his side besides also having a good passing accuracy of 72.42%. He was also Emerging Player of the Month for December. It’s his maiden call-up too.
The experienced India international put on view some fine performances for Hyderabad FC. Halicharan Narzary scored four goals and was one of his team’s best players during the first half of Hero ISL 2020-21, meriting an inclusion in the India squad for the friendlies. He also effected 55 tackles, 38 interceptions and 30 blocks.
Although it was a forgettable season for the speedy winger by his standards, Lallianzuala Chhangte still managed to score four goals for Chennaiyin FC and also provided one assist. The India international picked up some form towards the end of the league stage and will hope it stays with him during the friendlies.
Ashique Kuruniyan spent most of the season on the sidelines after suffering an injury. However, the versatile Bengaluru FC winger returned towards the end of the league stage and looked in good shape. The India international will now be looking for more game time with the national team.
One of Hyderabad FC’s many bright talents, 23-year-old Hitesh Sharma had a good season under his belt. Besides having a good passing accuracy of 71.26%, Hitesh proved to be a reliable defensive cover as he made 38 tackles, 13 interceptions and 19 blocks for his side. He has already represented India and will hope to go from strength to strength against Oman and the UAE.