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Top three surprising inclusions in India's AFC Asian Cup 2023 squad

Published at :December 30, 2023 at 7:28 PM
Modified at :January 14, 2024 at 12:38 AM
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Rutvij Joshi


There were better options available to Stimac but the tactician kept his faith on these players.

As the anticipation builds for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup in Qatar, Igor Stimac, the head coach of the Indian football team, has thrown some unexpected curveballs with his recent 26-man squad announcement for the showpiece event.

Definitely, injuries have plagued the team, leading to the exclusion of key players like Ashique Kuruniyan, Anwar Ali and Jeakson Singh. However, it’s the surprise call-ups that have stirred conversations among fans. Here, we delve into three names which have raised eyebrows.

3. Deepak Tangri

Top three surprising inclusions in India's AFC Asian Cup 2023 squad DEEPAK TANGRI
Deepak Tangri played only 261 minutes across 6 games this season. (Courtesy: ISL)

One of the most unexpected inclusions in Stimac’s squad is Deepak Tangri. The young midfielder has spent the majority of the season battling injuries and was notably absent from the recent national team camps. In the Indian Super League (ISL), Tangri’s playing time has been limited to a mere 261 minutes across six games, with performances that left much to be desired.

Fans and experts are questioning Stimac’s decision to opt for Tangri over other promising talents like Putiea and Danish Farooq, who have showcased consistent and commendable performances in comparison. The call-up raises concerns about Tangri’s match fitness and form, leaving many to wonder whether this was a gamble by the head coach or a necessity forced by the dearth of available options.

2. Pritam Kotal

Top three surprising inclusions in India's AFC Asian Cup 2023 squad PRITAM KOTAL
Pritam Kotal was dropped from the World Cup Qualifiers squad.

Pritam Kotal’s inclusion in the squad comes as a shock, especially considering his omission from the World Cup Qualifiers squad. In recent international windows, other right-back contenders such as Naorem Roshan Singh and Asish Rai were given opportunities, with Nikhil Poojary also in contention for the position.

Kotal has been playing the dual role of a centre-back and a right-back for Kerala Blasters. His selection raises questions about Stimac’s decision-making process. Asish and Roshan have demonstrated their capabilities in the right-back role, leaving many to wonder whether Kotal’s inclusion is a tactical masterstroke or an oversight that may have overlooked other deserving candidates.

1. Udanta Singh

Top three surprising inclusions in India's AFC Asian Cup 2023 squad UDANTA SINGH
Udanta has assisted only once this season.

Perhaps the most contentious selection is that of Udanta Singh. The winger has endured a lackluster season, contributing only one goal and one assist in 10 ISL appearances. In contrast, players like Parthib Gogoi, Nandhakumar Sekar and Jerry Mawihmingthanga have displayed better numbers throughout the season. Stimac’s decision to stick with Udanta despite his underwhelming form has left fans scratching their heads.

Is Udanta’s selection a nod to his past contributions, or is it a blind spot that could impact India’s chances at the AFC Asian Cup?

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