Some of these players have excelled at their respective clubs in the previous season.

The next major competition the Indian football team plays in, will be the AFC Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers. The games are scheduled to start from February 2022 onwards, giving Igor Stimac enough time to get together a strong squad. Before that, there will be many international friendly windows, where India will look to arrange games.

During that period, Stimac can hope to improve his record as India manager. By winning official friendly games, the Blue Tigers could also climb the FIFA Rankings. However, what Stimac will give utmost priority to is to assemble his best possible squad for the qualifiers.

While he’s guaranteed to choose some of his regulars from the last FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, there are more players he should scout and promote. Indeed, there are quite a few players who haven’t received any game-time under Stimac and deserve more. Let’s look at five players Stimac must give chances in the Indian football team before the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers.

5. Jessel Carneiro

Age might not be on his side, but Jessel Carneiro’s performances have deserved a national team call-up. The 31-year-old has excelled for Kerala Blasters in recent seasons and arguably been among their best performers. He was even given the captaincy by the club and possess the leadership skills needed to excel.

Carneiro’s defensively strong enough and has an excellent left foot. He’s averaged one assist in seven games in the Indian Super League (ISL) and almost three crosses per game. The left-back’s unique crosses and set-pieces make him a big threat. The national team still doesn’t have a first-choice left-back, so adding to the competition with someone like Carneiro could benefit Stimac’s side.

4. Seriton Fernandes

Not just the left-back, but India don’t really have a regular right-back yet either. Stimac will hope to get one set before the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers. Seriton Fernandes definitely deserves a shot to prove his worth. The FC Goa man missed out on the last FIFA World Cup Qualifiers due to COVID-19. But, he should be good to go for the friendly games or other matches up ahead.

The experienced FC Goa star proved his worth with some impressive performances in the AFC Champions League earlier this year. He’s defensively one of the best full-backs in the ISL, possessing impeccable tackling ability and game-reading knowledge. Fernandes can also provide appropriate attacking cover with his speedy runs and send in inviting crosses. Seriton rarely makes mistakes and is now experienced enough to thrive on the International stage, which is why Stimac should give him more opportunities soon.

3. Jeakson Singh

While he was handed his Indian football team debut by Stimac, Jeakson Singh definitely deserves more game-time at the International level. The 20-year-old is one of the best defensive midfielders in the country. He brings something different to the aggressive Glan Martins. With his ability to steal away possession, protect the defence and move the ball well, Singh is well-suited for Stimac’s system.

He has plenty of experience in the ISL, having made 29 appearances for Kerala Blasters. The only goalscorer in the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 for India is one for the big occasions, so he should thrive in the pressure of international games. Stimac has insisted he’s building for the future. In that case, integrating a clever, dynamic midfielder like Jeakson into his side should be a priority.

2. Bidyashagar Singh

For Stimac, there continues to be a problem in the No. 9 role in the Indian national team. Apart from Sunil Chhetri and Manvir Singh, there aren’t many options in his arsenal. However, he can try out different variations and give the new Bengaluru FC signing Bidyashagar Singh a chance. The former East Bengal youth academy starlet enjoyed a brilliant season in the I-League for TRAU FC last season.

He scored 12 goals in 15 appearances, winning the Golden Boot as a result. Bidyashagar possesses speed, efficient passing ability and is very clinical in the final third. He could prove to be a real surprise package in attack for India. Singh can operate on the wings or as a centre-forward, so his versatility can benefit the Blue Tigers. The 23-year-old has the efficiency and knowledge to succeed on the International stage, which is why Stimac should give him a national call-up soon.

1. Rahul KP

Rahul KP is proof of how much the youth development system in India has grown over the years. He has represented the country at nearly all youth levels, impressed in the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 and became a key player for Kerala Blasters last season. The 20-year-old is another versatile player, able to play on either wing, forward, or even midfielder if necessary. Rahul scored three goals in 17 appearances for the Blasters last season in the ISL.

He tormented defenders with his pace, dribbling ability and tendency to pop up in dangerous areas. The midfielder has played against International opponents at youth level in the past. He’s now ready to take the step forward into the senior national team. The tricky winger should be the next on Stimac’s list to give an India team debut, because Rahul possesses all the ability to be a real menace in attack for the Blue Tigers.

For more updates, follow Khel Now on TwitterInstagram and join our community on Telegram.