Remembering India’s Asian Cup 2011 campaign: How many from that squad still play for India?
On this day two years ago, India played their first match in Asian Cup 2011 against Australia, having qualified for the continent’s biggest competition for the first time in 27 years! In this new special series, Sportskeeda will be looking back at India’s campaign with some interesting stories and insights.
Results-wise, it was a disappointing tournament for India, as they lost each of their three matches, but lets not forget that we were placed in the same group as 2010 World Cuppers Australia and South Korea, and West Asian outfit Bahrain.
It was only our third appearance in the Asian Cup and it attracted great interest in the country, as fans for once got to see their own players fight it out against some household names like Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill, Park Ji Sung etc.
There have been plenty of changes in the national team in the last two years, both in the coaching department, as Bob Houghton has had three successors already, Dutchman Wim Koevermans being the latest, and in the squad as well. So in the first part of this series, we look back at the performances of each member of that 23-man squad and reveal how many still play for the national team.
International retirement (Bhaichung Bhutia, Climax Lawrence, Mahesh Gawli)
These three former captains no longer appear at international level and one could argue that their absence is still felt. Bhaichung could only manage a substitute appearance against South Korea in the tournament and that proved to be his final competitive match for India as injuries didn’t allow him to prolong his international career. Interestingly, he played his farewell match for India against Bayern Munich on this very day last year.
One of India’s best defenders in recent times, Mahesh, didn’t get any gametime in Qatar, as Bob Houghton didn’t rotate his defence too much in the tournament, but the center back did go on to make a few more appearances under both Armando Colaco and Savio Medeira. He announced his retirement after winning the SAFF Cup.
Climax led India out in each of their Asian Cup games and the midfield general played every minute of their campaign. He was captain of the 2011 SAFF Cup winning squad and would have retired along with good friend Mahesh but was told by Medeira that he would remain part of his plans in the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup also. However, Climax was surprisingly dropped and the midfielder retired immediately as an impressive international career was ended in ugly fashion.
Veterans (Renedy Singh, Deepak Mondal, Surkumar Singh, Abhishek Yadav)
The quartet haven’t yet officially retired from international football but neither of them have featured in the blue jersey after the Asian Cup, and since all of them are on the wrong side of 30, it is unlikely we will ever get to see them appear for the national team again.
Dead-ball specialist Renedy was undoubtedly India’s best player in Qatar 2011, playing a key role in two of India’s three goals and producing some touches that showed that he was the one Indian player in a class of his own. Deepak, who had played center back nearly all his career, was mostly used as a fullback by Houghton and he did struggle against quality opposition in Qatar.
Despite some tough moments, Surkumar was full of energy at right back and Abhishek repaid the faith Houghton showed in him by being a towering presence, which often helped India defend set-pieces and he also set up their first goal against Bahrain.
Still Key Members (Subrata Pal, Gouramangi Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Syed Rahim Nabi, Clifford Miranda)
They were regulars under Houghton and they remain important members in the Koevermans era also. In fact, the four can be considered the senior members of the national team now, although barring Nabi, the other three haven’t been at their best at club level.
Of the four, Subrata had the best tournament as he earned several nicknames including ‘Spiderman’ for his heroics under the bar. Gouramangi grew in confidence at center back and scored India’s first goal of the tournament.
Nabi’s versatility was used to the fullest as he operated both as left back and left midfielder while Sunil’s stock rose again after scoring against both Bahrain and South Korea.
Clifford wasn’t a regular in Houghton’s team and didn’t make any appearance in Qatar but has established himself as a starter under Koevermans.
On the fringes (Subhashish Roychowdhury, Gurpreet Sandhu, Baldeep Singh*)
It’s probably a little harsh to keep Subhasish Roychowdhury in this category as he has been ever present in the squad. But the Dempo custodian has hardly been a starter as he has been the deputy to either Subrata or Karanjit Singh. He was on the bench at all three matches in the Asian Cup also but some fine current form at club level could see him challenge for the No.1 jersey.
Young Gurpreet’s unexpected inclusion can be compared to that of Theo Walcott’s entry into the England squad in the 2006 World Cup as the Punjabi goalkeeper made the squad in place of the injured Arindam Bhattacharya despite having very little I-League experience. But it showed a measure of his talents, and the 20-year-old has plenty of time on his side to become an India regular.
Out of the reckoning (Govin Singh, Rakesh Masih, NS Manju , Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Mohammed Rafi, Anwar Ali, NP Pradeep, Steven Dias)
The last three names in this list started each of the three games, while Mehraj made three substitute appearances and Rafi had just one start. Yet, none of them seem to be part of Koevermans’ plans.
Dias always seemed to do well under Houghton but couldn’t deliver against quality opposition in the Asian Cup. Pradeep too had a poor tournament, while Anwar didn’t do too badly but his place in the team was always questioned due to indifferent club form. Mehraj did a decent job from the bench while Rafi didn’t get too many opportunities.
The remaining three didn’t make any appearance, but while Govin is playing regularly for Shillong Lajong, Masih is out of form and lacks confidence, while injuries have got the better of Manju in the last 24 months.