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Rahul Bheke Announced Fit as Igor Stimac Names 23-man Squad for FIFA World Cup Qualifier vs Bangladesh

Rahul Bheke passed a medical assessment and has been included in the 23-man Indian men's football squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Bangladesh in Kolkata.

News18 Sports

Updated:October 12, 2019, 4:38 PM IST
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Rahul Bheke Announced Fit as Igor Stimac Names 23-man Squad for FIFA World Cup Qualifier vs Bangladesh
Rahul Bheke was initially ruled out of the World Cup qualifiers vs Bangladesh. (Photo Credit: @IndianFootball)

Rahul Bheke was included in the 23-man Indian squad, which was announced by head coach Igor Stimac for the upcoming 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup qualifier against Bangladesh to be held in Kolkata on October 15.

The 28-year-old defender was initially forced out of the training camp held in Guwahati, but has been named in the squad for the crucial game at Saltlake Stadium after getting medically cleared post assessment.

The 28-year-old made his national team debut at the King's Cup in Thailand in June and played in both the first two Group E matches of the World Cup qualifiers against Oman and Qatar.

Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac applauded the medical team for Rahul Bheke's fast improvement.

"Credit to the Bengaluru FC and Indian National Team medical unit, Rahul (Bheke) is back on his feet. He's a strong contender for starting the match against Bangladesh," the 52-year-old coach said.

Sandesh Jhingan's name is missing from the squad as he was ruled out of the Bangladesh game on Thursday after picking up an injury in a friendly game against ISL side NorthEast United (which ended in a 1-1 draw).

Indian National Physio Gigy George informed that "Sandesh has suffered on his left knee ACL tear and need to undergo surgery. It usually takes 6 months for return to sport. He will be monitored constantly during the rehabilitation phase so that he comes back on the field sooner."

Meanwhile, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who stood tall against Asian champions termed Sandesh's absence as 'a big loss' for the Blue Tigers.

"It's really sad. It's a big loss for us, especially at this moment. I could imagine how would he feel missing this game but he's a strong guy and he'll come back strongly soon," Sandhu said.

Adil, who has developed a strong partnership with Jhingan at the heart of the defence of late, feels Sandesh's absence provides others with a chance to prove their worth in front of the Kolkata crowd.

"He (Sandesh) plays a huge role in our team and he's the leader in our defence. Now, the onus is on us to live up to the expectations. We want to win it for him," Adil said.

The likes of Nishu Kumar, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Anwar Ali, Halicharan Narzary, Farukh Choudhary have been left out from the 29-man preliminary squad.

"Halicharan, Farukh and Nishu gave others a tough run for money and the decision was not an easy one. They came very close to their competitors. It was in fact a tough decision to take," head coach Stimac said.

"Sandesh is our Iron-man. He'll be missed in Kolkata but knowing him, I'm pretty sure, he'll come back much stronger," Stimac said.

The Indian football team will be arriving in Kolkata on October 13, as the Bangladesh team had a practice session in Kolkata on Saturday morning.

India had earlier lost 1-2 to Oman in Guwahati on September 5 while registering a commendable 0-0 draw against Asian champions Qatar on September 10 in Doha.

After the match against Bangladesh in Kolkata, they play against Afghanistan and Oman on November 14 and 19 in their away matches.

Here is the 23-man squad for the match against Bangladesh:

GOALKEEPERS: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Kamaljit Singh.

DEFENDERS: Pritam Kotal, Rahul Bheke, Adil Khan, Narender Gahlot, Sarthak Golui, Anas Edathodika, Mandar Rao Dessai, Subhasish Bose.

MIDFIELDERS: Udanta Singh, Nikhil Poojary, Vinit Rai, Anirudh Thapa, Abdul Sahal, Raynier Fernandes, Brandon Fernandes, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Ashique Kuruniyan.

FORWARDS: Sunil Chhetri, Balwant Singh, Manvir Singh.

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