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AFC Asian Cup 2023 Indian Football Team Squad Analysis: Midfielders

Published at :January 6, 2024 at 10:21 PM
Modified at :January 13, 2024 at 11:31 AM
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Keshava Verma

The Blue Tigers will miss the services of prolific midfielder Jeakson Singh in the AFC Asian Cup.

With less than two weeks left for its commencement, the 2023 AFC Asian Cup is inching closer and closer with each passing day, and it only remains a matter of time before we watch Asia’s biggest footballing competition unravel and showcase the incredible talent that it inherits. 

There is also a growing sense of excitement all across the Indian footballing fraternity, as the Blue Tigers enter into the competition for the second time in a row, with a fresh look to their squad, that includes both individual talent and team spirit. 

Despite a late start to their preparatory camp for the Asian Cup, Igor Stimac and his men are determined to cause an upset in the group stages, and qualify for the knockout rounds.

On the 30th of December, Stimac announced the 26-member squad for the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 and whilst there are some surprise exclusions from the squad, there are some debatable inclusions too! All in all, the troop is quite the expected one, which has been tested and moulded by the think tank over the period of the last 12-15 months. 

With that said, let us now take a look at the midfield contingent for the Blue Tigers, and do an in-depth analysis of how each player can fit into Igor’s tactical blueprint ahead of the competition. 

Anirudh Thapa

Anirudh Thapa Hero Tri-Nation Tournament Hero Intercontinental Cup 2023
Anirudh Thapa battling for the Blue Tigers. (Courtesy: AIFF)

Despite not having been in the best of form since joining Mohun Bagan this summer, Anirudh Thapa is a crucial component for Igor’s tactical operations The Croatian somewhat knows the cheat code of getting the best out of Thapa, and the midfielder has proved his worth in the national team time and again. His pressing as well as his quick understanding of the game, gives Stimac an upper hand in the midfield. The former Chennaiyin FC player will definitely be a key component in the squad. 

Brandon Fernandes

Brandon has been an absolute force this season and is shining under the tutelage of Manolo Marquez at FC Goa. It would be quite injudicious to judge Brandon’s performances based on his numbers, as the player is heavily involved in creating chances, and opening up the play for the attackers.

Brandon’s ability to play inch-perfect crosses and long balls, is something that India would greatly be benefitted from against teams like Australia, who have a formidable and disciplined backline. 

Deepak Tangri

Tangri’s call-up for the Asian Cup is arguably one of the most shocking and unexpected decisions taken by the boss but if we take a second thought, then it is quite a smart move by the Croatian.

With Jeaskon missing out on due to injury, Tangri fills up the role of a strong physical presence in the  midfield, and his quick thinking and apt passing can prove to be an element of surprise for the opponents. 

Lalengmawia Ralte

Having suffered with his injury issues last season, Apuia is back in full swing for both club and country. The youngster has been extremely impressive for Mumbai City FC this season and was also on point against Qatar in the World Cup qualifiers in November.

Apuia’s ability to create space for himself in the midfield and play simple yet effective passes in crucial and tight situations make him an indispensable force for the Blue Tigers.

Liston Colaco

Liston’s redemption this season has been another incredible script to behold. After a quite disappointing end to his 2022-23 season, the midfielder has bounced back in full strength this season. Liston has registered a goal and three assists in eight games so far in the ISL and has netted two more goals in the AFC Cup.

Liston’s pace and quick pressing is something that can be of advantage to India. Liston is a great option who can be brought on from the bench to influence the game in the latter stages.  

Naorem Mahesh Singh

Naorem Mahesh Singh showcasing his skills against North East United FC. (Courtesy: ISL media)

Naorem Mahesh Singh has been Igor’s go-to player on several occasions this year. From coming on from the bench to becoming one of the most integral members of the Indian squad, Mahesh’s rise in the pecking order has been exceptional. It goes without saying that his technical abilities in the wings, combined with that great left foot of his, can prove to be deadly for the opponents. 

Sahal Abdul Samad

Despite still recovering from the injury he sustained earlier on in December, Sahal has been called up to the national team and it will be interesting to see whether he can get back to full fitness before the start of the competition. 

Sahal has been in fine form this season for Mohun Bagan, and has four assists to his name in six games. Sahal has shown time and again as to how effective he can be in the national team’s endeavours, and Igor Stimac will need him to shine at the biggest footballing stage in Asia.  

Suresh Singh Wangjam

Suresh has become a regular feature in the national team over the course of the past year. Despite not having the best start to the season with his club, Suresh’s quality on the pitch is unquestionable, and his work-rate is simply incomparable. Suresh has a ball recovery rate of 5.4 this season, which shows how effective he can be with his press and track-back runs. 

This stringent work-rate is something that Stimac will be in dire need of, when playing against giants like Australia and Uzbekistan, where the Blue Tigers aren’t expected to keep a lot of possession. 

Udanta Singh

Fiery, rapid and technical – these are probably the best words to describe Udanta’s qualities on the pitch. His quick feet and amazing dribbling helps him get past defenders with ease. Moreover, his on-field understanding with Sunil Chhetri is also a huge plus point for India. 

Udanta’s selection for the AFC Asian Cup shows that the player has evolved and improved his game, and can now be a better fit in the National team. Fans are aware of the dip in form he faced in recent past. But, can this be Udanta’s perfect stage for comeback? Time will answer

Notable Absentees

Jeakson Singh is arguably the biggest absentee for India as he is still recovering from his shoulder injury. Amidst other prominent exclusions are Mohammad Yasir and Jiteshwor Singh. Both portrayed promising performances this season, but unfortunately missed out on the opportunity of donning the national colours at one of the biggest international stages.

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