Hero Intercontinental Cup

Hero Intercontinental Cup 2023: Top five Indian players to watch out for

Uttiyo SarkarUttiyo Sarkar

June 3 2023
Lallianzuala Chhangte Nandhakumar Sekar Indian players to watch out for in Hero Intercontinental Cup 2023

India will play their first Hero Intercontinetal Cup game against Mongolia on June 9.

India will aim to win their second Hero Intercontinental Cup title when they host the tournament after a three-year absence this month. The Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar will be the hosting ground for the competition, which will see the Blue Tigers face some unique opponents in the form of Mongolia, Lebanon and Vanuatu.

Igor Stimac’s side heads into the tournament as strong favorites to win the whole thing, based on their impressive recent form and home advantage. This tournament will be one where the tactician will aim to build more chemistry within his strongest XI and also give opportunities to newcomers after their impressive Indian Super League (ISL) campaign.

The Croatian manager will aim to maximize the output of his squad and give as many players their deserved opportunities, all while competing strongly to win the trophy. With that being said, let’s look at the top five Indian players to particularly look out for in the upcoming Hero Intercontinental Cup.

5. Jeakson Singh

Jeakson Singh Hero Intercontinental Cup Indian football team India
Jeakson Singh was India’s first goal-scorer at a FIFA event. (Courtesy: PTI)

Jeakson Singh appears to be becoming a mainstay in the Indian national team under Stimac, having started all their last five games. The 21-year-old comes at the back of a pretty solid ISL campaign with Kerala Blasters, in which he averaged 4+ tackles per game and an impressive 84.13% passing accuracy with 46 average passes per game. Singh is a great fit for Stimac’s system, as he can calmly sit ahead of the backline – move the ball forward from his own half and also make key challenges to avert disaster.

Singh is likely to face some challenging prospects in the matches ahead, where he won’t just be expected to protect the backline, but also kick-start attacking moves from the defensive third. It’ll be a nice test of his versatility and adaptability to games against easier opponents and a chance to further consolidate his place in Stimac’s team.

4. Nandhakumar Sekar

Nandhakumar Sekar is poised to receive his debut for the Indian national team in the upcoming Hero Intercontinental Cup after enjoying a prolific ISL season. The 27-year-old was in fine form for Odisha FC, scoring six goals and providing an assist in the competition. He also played a key role in helping them win their first-ever Hero Super Cup title, contributing many goals in the tournament. Nandha can be a precious asset for India, due to his goal-scoring ability and clinical nature in the final third.

He can find spaces in the opposition box and time his runs perfectly to amplify the goal-scoring threat for his side. Stimac is likely to give him a chance to impress and Nandha needs to embrace his opportunities with open arms. Seeing how he troubled ISL sides with his clever movement and finishing skills, it’ll certainly be fascinating to witness how Nandha performs at the international level and if he can put his unique style to good use.

3. Rahim Ali

Hero Intercontinental Cup Indian football team India Rahim Ali
Rahim Ali was adjudged Man of the Match on his international debut against Nepal. (Courtesy: AIFF)

With Manvir Singh ruled out of the tournament with an injury, Rahim Ali is likely to feature heavily in the upcoming Hero Intercontinental Cup. He has already proven his ability to thrive with Sunil Chhetri in a front-two, while he can also impress as a sole striker. The 23-year-old has made six appearances under Stimac so far and seems to a nice fit for his side. Ali has the physicality to cope with foreign defenders, while his link-up play and hard-working nature help him thrive.

The Chennaiyin FC man, however, will be dependent on providing the goods upfront. Playing against relatively weaker sides, Ali needs to prove that he can bring goals for India on a consistent basis. It’ll be fascinating to see how the energetic striker operates in the matches ahead and if he can prove his ruthless nature by finishing off chances perfectly.

2. Naorem Mahesh Singh

With Naorem Roshan Singh ruled out of the tournament due to injury, Igor Stimac could actually be ready to use Naorem Mahesh Singh on the left. The East Bengal winger had a prolific season in the ISL last time around, getting nine goal contributions (two goals, seven assists) in just 19 appearances for them. Singh impressed Stimac in the Hero Tri-Nation Friendly Tournament too, with his disciplinary work and ‘sticking to the instructions’ attitude impressing the tactician.

Singh is blessed with a brilliant crossing ability, which can be vital in creating chances from the left. Mahesh could actually be tested in that left-back role, but will need to work overtime to contribute on both sides of the pitch. Singh has a perfect chance to prove how good of a creative player he really is in the upcoming games, as he’ll need to take his opportunities perfectly to solidify his role in the Indian team.

1. Lallianzuala Chhangte

Lallianzuala Chhangte Hero Intercontinental Cup Indian football team India
Lallianzuala Chhangte. (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Lallianzuala Chhangte was the most prolific Indian player of the 2022-23 Indian Football season, as he excelled in nearly every competition in which he played for Mumbai City FC. The 25-year-old appears to be on the verge of hitting his peak, as he absolutely excelled for the Islanders last season. Chhangte scored 18 goals and provided nine assists across 32 games in all competitions, including 16 goal contributions in 22 ISL games. He looks to have hit his top gear, playing with a sense of unpredictability and ruthlessness that wasn’t seen before.

Chhangte is impressive with the ball in his feet, as he is often able to dribble past and use his pace to outwork defenders. He has become especially decisive in the final third, being able to finish chances more clinically and also set up opportunities with clever crosses. Chhangte has a big chance to add major numbers to his international career in the upcoming Hero Intercontinental Cup. He’ll need to retain his composed nature and take his chances perfectly in the final third, doing which can help Chhangte get a lot of goal contributions and lead India to the title.

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