Name: Ashique Kuruniyan
Club: FC Pune City
National Team caps: 9
NOTABLE PERFORMANCE FOR INDIA
Ashique Kuruniyan was deployed in an unfamiliar role up front by Stephen Constantine against Thailand but the youngster showcased nerves of steel to lead the line alongside Sunil Chhetri and cause problems for the Thai defence. India romped to a 4-1 win in their Group A opener at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in UAE and Kuruniyan was an integral part of the Indian attack for most of the game.
The Pune City winger latched onto a quick throw-in by Sunil Chhetri in the 26th minute and his direct run into the box forced a handball off Theerathol Bunmathan. Chhetri stepped up to convert and open the scoring for the Blue Tigers.
The Kerala-born forward was a real nuisance for Thailand and vindicated Stephen Constantine's decision to play him ahead of Jeje Lalpekhlua and Balwant Singh.
Ashique Kuruniyan is one of the most promising wingers in India who has the potential to make it count at the biggest stage. He likes to play with the ball at his feet and is not afraid to take on defenders from a one-on-one scenarios. He is a fine crosser and his delivery from the wide areas can hurt the opposition.
He will also be decisive at the later stages of a match when there would be tired legs on the pitch as the 21-year old is quick on his feet and is a very agile dribbler in crowded areas. He has a high work rate and does not shy away from his defending duties as well which will be crucial in UAE.
The winger must work on his goal scoring abilities. With a goal-conversion rate of just six per cent in the current Indian Super League Season (ISL) season, he has been a disappointment in the scoring department. He also has a tendency to pick up yellow cards which can land him in trouble. He has been cautioned thrice in the 2018-19 ISL and all the warnings have come within the first 25 minutes of the match.
Kuruniyan has been an integral part of FC Pune City and has already clocked up 916 minutes in 12 matches. He has got off to a decent start to the season and has scored once whereas notching up an assist on another occassion. The 21-year old player has been an active presence in defence as well and the numbers are a testimony to it. With 22 tackles, 16 interceptions, 13 blocks and 12 clearances he has been performing his defensive duties with due diligence which will be an asset for Stephen Constantine in the AFC Asian Cup. He is off to a brilliant start in UAE.