Bengaluru FC will be looking to create history in the AFC Cup semi-finals, as they prepare to meet Johor Darul Ta’zim in the second leg of the AFC Cup at home on Wednesday. After drawing the first leg 1-1 and sitting on a critical away goal advantage, the Bengaluru side would be looking to become the first Indian club to reach the finals of the tournament.
Looking from the national lens, this can be a new chapter in Indian football, which has been on the brink of success for some time now. The Indian contingent has been very effective in the birth and rise of Bengaluru FC and can be compared to the famed ‘Class of 92’ of Manchester, which produced home-grown stalwarts like David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers.
The players might not be home-grown like the famed Manchester United stars, but they have become an integral part of the Bengaluru FC’s setup and identity. Rino Anto, one of India’s best right-backs, and Sunil Chhetri, India’s best ever national striker, joined the club from its inception and have seen the unbridled rise of The Blues.
Amrinder Singh and Eugeneson Lyngdoh complete the very integral quartet of the Indian contingent which has performed superbly for Bengaluru FC throughout. The goalkeeper and midfielder joined in 2014-15, and have been key figures in the side ever since. The team was tactically and ideologically crafted by former coach Ashley Westwood, who can be called one of the best coaches ever to grace the Indian footballing scenario.
Since arriving on the scene, the team, owned by the JSW group, has won the I-League twice, showing never-seen-before dominance on the field in Indian football. What was more pleasing for the fans was the fact that these players were integral and important members of the victory and not just fringe players.
A look at the key Indian players in Bengaluru FC’s successful journey:
Amrinder Singh adds a lot of composure and energy under the bar. The 23-year-old goalkeeper from Punjab started his career at Pune FC but has slowly grown into one of the finest goal-stoppers in the country. Amrinder has regularly played for the Indian U-23 team and is a great presence under the bar, with sensible game-reading and confident ball distribution.
Another attribute which stands out for Amrinder is his point-blank reflexes, which might remind you of Subrata Paul at his peak. The goalkeeper has a knack of keeping clean sheets and that augurs well for The Blues. Coach Albert Roca would be expecting his defensive spearhead to do a clean job and lead his side to the finals and create history.
The right-back is powerful, fast and has an unignorably massive presence. Equally effective in the defence and the attack, the former Atletico de Kolkata defender loves to get involved in the game and is a coach’s delight. Such is Rino’s ability that he was an almost irremovable name from Ashley Westwood’s team sheets.
Rino has plied his trade for Mohun Bagan in the past and has played for the Blue Tigers six times, thus, he’s not been away from the biggest stage in the past. Rino’s performances have been commendable in Bengaluru’s run to the semi-finals and the coach would expect his right-back to step up his game one more time.
Eugeneson is one of India’s greatest midfielders ever, and plays for probably the best Indian club side. If Eugeneson can replicate his performances, Bengaluru FC fans can be sure of smiling after the second leg. The Indian international can run at defenders, can dictate play sitting deep and also has the ability to create brilliant chances in the attacking third.
The midfielder who’s playing at the left wing currently for his team has already made over 50 appearances for his club, scoring 15 goals only in the I-League. The player has the knack of kicking above his weight on bigger occasions and this hidden dynamo can torment defenders and goalkeepers with stinging set-pieces.
The player who completes the Indian integral quartet, Sunil has been there and done it all. Playing for Kansas City Wizards against Manchester United was one of the highest moments in the career of a striker who is probably the best that India has ever had.
Sunil is leading the side’s attack with CK Vineeth, who feeds off well from his compatriot. The striker has a mean shot from a distance and can hit them with both feet, a rare ability in the Indian sub-continent. Standing at just 5’7’’, the Indian still scores a lot from headers and is one of the most hard-working players in the country.
If Sunil gets even one opportunity, Johor would have a hard time keeping a clean sheet in the game. The diminutive striker hits it hard and hits it well, and the fans would be hoping to see the striker’s magic at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, and hopefully create history with Bengaluru in the AFC Cup.
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