The contingent boasts of some experienced and in-form players who will have a lot of expectations to fulfill in the upcoming games.
The Indian football team announced the 28-man squad which will travel to Qatar for the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers on Wednesday. The campaign comes at a difficult time for the Blue Tigers, considering the conditions of the pandemic. At the same time, results against Qatar, Bangladesh and Afghanistan will have a lot of implications for the country as a whole.
Looking at the squad, here are five takeaways and how that will have an impact on the campaign:
5. What could be the best defensive lineup for Stimac?
Rahul Bheke, Sandesh Jhingan, Pritam Kotal and Subhasish Bose add a lot of solidity to the defence. On the other hand, Chinglensana Singh, Akash Mishra and Narender Gahlot add good depth.
Since Qatar will arguably post the biggest threat, Stimac is likely to pick Jhingan and Bose considering their experience. If Chinglensana is to make the starting XI, Stimac will have to choose between Bheke and Kotal at right-back. Otherwise, Adil Khan can be a good centre-back partner for Jhingan.
Many would even question the absence of Seriton Fernandes in the squad after his performance in the AFC Champions League. His presence could have certainly made a difference for the team. Nevertheless, the head coach has time to figure out the best combination ahead of the games.
4. Glan Martins’ addition provides a different dimension in midfield
Glan Martins had a wonderful second half of the 2020-21 season with FC Goa in the Indian Super League. He established himself as a crucial first-team player under Juan Ferrando and continued that form in the ACL. The midfielder had a memorable campaign on the continent, grabbing the attention of many. The 26-year-old was relentless with his pressing and his swift yet accurate ball distribution is something Stimac would be impressed with.
The midfield of the Indian football team already boasts the likes of Rowllin Borges, Anirudh Thapa and Sahal Abdul Samad. But, Martins adds a different dimension and Stimac will have a tough time choosing between them.
3. Udanta Singh handed shot at redemption
Questions will be asked over the inclusion of Udanta Singh in the squad, who particularly hasn’t been at his best lately. But, due to the pandemic, there have been certain amendments to the rules of football. Increased number of substitutes on the bench and the squad as a whole are some of them.
For players like Udanta, this could prove to be a lifeline. The winger could get a shot at redemption at the international level and nothing can be more important to him right now. The Bengaluru FC star has proved his calibre previously, but will need to be at his best when he gets the chance.
2. Midfield the biggest strength?
Igor Stimac’s selection of midfielders will be the deciding factor behind the success of the Indian football team in the upcoming campaign. Many exciting names have made the cut this time around and they will carry the weight of huge expectations. Anirudh Thapa, Brandon Fernandes and Rowllin Borges are some of the most experienced in the squad.
Fortunately for India, each of them is fit and the latter two have also been in a good form. In addition, with the likes of Bipin Singh, Lalengmawia, Suresh Wangjam, Liston Colaco and Lallianzuala Chhangte present – this could well be India’s best depth in midfield in years. It wouldn’t be a surprise if any of them gets on to the scoresheet in the qualifiers.
1. Sunil Chhetri’s return a big boost
The Indian football team delivered a memorable performance against Qatar in the reverse fixture, despite the likes of Sunil Chhetri missing. The Blue Tigers missed him again during the recent International Friendlies. Thus, his availability for the upcoming games will be a huge sigh of relief for Stimac and the fans.
Upfront, Manvir Singh has time and again done a wonderful job and has proven his calibre in big games. Now, with Chhetri alongside, the duo could cause trouble for the opposition. Their goalscoring instincts will be craved upon by the country.
Moreover, just the skipper’s presence will have a positive impact on the team’s performances. Over the years, he has not only contributed with goals, but has been a leader that pulls the strings of team. Against formidable opponents like Qatar, the Indian football team will rely on his leadership once again.