National Team Players Face Playing Time Crunch Ahead of World Cup Qualifiers

National Team Players Face Playing Time Crunch Ahead of World Cup Qualifiers

With the Indian Super League (ISL) approaching its mid-season break, concerns are mounting for national team coach Igor Stimac as several key players are struggling for playing time at their clubs.

Among the affected players are Anirudh Thapa, Lalengmawia Ralte (Apuiah), Sahal Abdul Samad, Brandon Fernandes, Udanta Singh, and Pritam Kotal, who collectively boast over 223 international appearances. In the past two rounds, none of these players have completed a full match.

Thapa, a crucial midfielder for Mohun Bagan Super Giant, has not played a full game in the last six rounds. Brandon Fernandes, the FC Goa captain, has failed to score in 892 minutes of play and was omitted from the squad in the team’s last two matches. Udanta Singh has started only one of FC Goa’s last six games.

Ralte has been absent from Mumbai City FC’s squad in the last two rounds, while Rahul KP has not lasted a full game in Kerala Blasters’ last five matches. Sahal Abdul Samad, who picked up an injury, missed Mohun Bagan’s recent match against Jamshedpur FC.

Stimac’s concerns are compounded by the injuries to Sandesh Jhingan and Ashique Kuruniyan. With the World Cup qualifiers against Afghanistan approaching, Stimac may have to consider players who are not currently getting regular minutes at their clubs.

However, head coaches often prefer to stick with players who have lost their starting berths at clubs due to familiarity with the national team’s training and fitness drills. Stimac has previously stated that he would only consider new players after they have maintained their form for a season.

Despite these challenges, Stimac may consider players like Imran Khan of Jamshedpur FC, Isak Vanlalruatfela of Odisha FC, and Amey Ranawade of Odisha FC, who have impressed with their performances this season.

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