All these players were ecstatic for their respective ISL sides.
The Indian football team is back in action later this month to participate in the Tri-Nation Friendly Tournament. This will see them face Myanmar and the Kyrgyz Republic in two games during the FIFA international window.
Ahead of that, Igor Stimac named a provisional 23-man squad to take part in national team training. Team India will be training for five days in Kolkata before heading over to Imphal for the games. They are set to face Myanmar on March 25 and the Kyrgyz Republic on March 28.
Stimac has named his strongest available squad. He’s also rewarded some players for their excellent work in the Indian Super League (ISL) season. Indeed, along with a string of veterans, some new younger players have also been included in the squad. We look at the five new faces in the Indian football team for this upcoming tournament.
5. Phurba Lachenpa
After winning the ISL Shield with Mumbai City FC, Phurba Lachenpa’s March has gotten even better. He’s been selected as the third goalkeeper in the national squad, ahead of Vishal Kaith and Prabhsukhan Gill. Lachenpa’s been rewarded for being really consistent and reliable for Mumbai throughout the season.
He kept seven clean sheets in 22 games, averaging almost three saves a game. Not only is Lachenpa a superb shot-stopper, but he also possesses the necessary ‘modern-day goalkeeper’ traits. He averaged over 15 passes a game for Mumbai and his distribution, be it long kicks or pinpoint shorter passes, were spot on. The 25-year-old will be joining the Indian national football team camp for the first time and will hope to get some minutes in the Tri-Nation Friendly Tournament.
4. Ritwik Das
Despite Jamshedpur FC going through a poor season, Ritwik Das improved himself from the 2021-22 campaign and excelled over this season. Ritwik was a breath of fresh air for Aidy Boothroyd’s side, tormenting teams with his incisive style. He used his movement and excellent final product to good use, scoring six goals in 18 appearances.
Das ended the campaign as Jamshedpur’s highest scorer and the joint third-highest Indian goal-scorer in the ISL. The winger scored three goals in their last four games, guiding them to three wins. Thanks to his excellent finish to the season, Das has been rewarded with a place in the India squad. He’ll be gunning to make his international debut in the upcoming games and add another feather to his impressive season.
3. Rohit Kumar
Rohit Kumar wasn’t even a starting player for Bengaluru FC when they started their ISL season. He was mostly used as an energetic substitute, but that didn’t really work that much. Simon Grayson was impressed with Kumar’s determination and started him in the 2-1 win over NorthEast United in January – which marked the start of the Blues’ 11-game winning streak. Kumar has started every game since then, scoring three goals too! More than that, his never-give-up-mentality and bullish aggressiveness in midfield have helped add more stability as well as defend better against opponents.
Now he sees himself selected for the Indian football team for the first time, having played for India U-23 in the past. The youngster will aim to play alongside his Bengaluru partner Suresh Singh for India and get his debut. If he’s able to impress Stimac with his sheer determination and tenacious style, then who knows – that might become a reality soon!
2. Mehtab Singh
Mehtab Singh is another breakout star of the 2022-23 season to be rewarded for his heroics in the ISL. He had an impressive campaign with Mumbai City, starting 21 games! Singh was a stalwart at the back, neutralizing the threat of many major names with his assertive defending style. He averaged over three clearances and two blocks per game for the Islanders, being a gritty and physical figure. What was also impressive about Mehtab was his passing ability and tendency to play out from the back.
He averaged over 55 passes a game with an accuracy of 87.66%. So, it’s not surprising to see Stimac call the promising 24-year-old defender to his squad. The Croatian mentor loves defenders who can take responsibility at the back, be it with their defending or passing. Mehtab checks both requirements and will hope to scrap a prominent role for himself in the Indian football team in the upcoming Tri-Nation Friendly Tournament.
1. Sivasakthi Narayanan
Probably the most predictable thing was Sivasakthi Narayanan getting his maiden India call-up for this tournament. The 21-year-old had an amazing breakthrough season with ISL finalists Bengaluru FC and played a major role in their success. The youngster formed a brilliant partnership with Roy Krishna to torment defenders. With his impressive pace and foxy off-the-ball movement, Siva has left experienced centre-backs in bits.
He scored six goals and provided three assists in 20 appearances, the second-most for any Bengaluru FC player. Siva is likely to have the most chances among the maiden call-ups to get regular playing time in the upcoming games. With Stimac and the Blue Tigers desperately craving for a quality centre-forward, he’ll aim to fill that void and make a bright impression in his debut stint with India.
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