There are several talented young prospects who could go on to take centre-stage for the national side in the coming decade.
Football followers often tend to look way beyond their purview to predict the future of the sport for their respective teams or country. Indian football is at a stage where it has gained sustainable attention from the audience due to various factors.
Accordingly, it is now a combined responsibility of the entire ecosystem of the game in the nation to hone and nurture prodigious young players so that this journey doesn’t come to a standstill after an initial phase of euphoria.
Here, we look to envision the players who could be turning up for the Indian national football team at the end of this decade. However, we ensure to throw up some newer names so that they gain more recognition.
Hence, only players born on or after 01/01/2000 have been chosen in this team.
Goalkeeper: Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem
Probably India’s most promising prospect from the FIFA U-17 World Cup of 2017, Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem holds the potential of developing into a formidable custodian. His quick reflexes coupled with commendable athleticism, make him a fine shot-stopper.
The 20-year-old might have to enhance his ability to play the ball out from the back, considering the fact that the national team is looking to adopt a similar approach in the coming times. He will have to harness his perseverance in order to attain a starting spot in both his club and the Indian football team. Furthermore, Dheeraj faces stiff competition from Prabhsukhan Singh Gill, who is emerging as a notable player to watch out for too. The youngster also featured for Bengaluru FC in their AFC Cup campaign last season.
Right-Back: Shubham Sarangi
Shubham Sarangi made a significant mark in Indian football with his consistent performances from right-back for Odisha FC in the previous ISL season. The 20-year-old possesses attacking instincts and hence sniffs and capitalizes on any opportunity to move ahead on the flank.
He tends to remain busy defensively too, having recorded 4.76 tackles, 5.70 clearances and 1.64 interceptions on an average in every ISL match that he played last campaign. Sarangi definitely looks like someone who has the temperament to replicate such performances at the international level and hence can be earmarked to be someone who can seal that spot in this decade.
Centre-Back: Narender Gahlot
The first player born in the 21st century to score a goal for the Indian football team, Narender Gahlot certainly has a bright career ahead of him. The Jamshedpur FC defender is a solid, no-nonsense centre-back who is a fine passer of the ball too.
Gahlot recorded four tackles and 1.27 interceptions per game for the Men of Steel in the previous term. He made his debut for the senior team in the Intercontinental Cup in 2019 and could arguably be eased into the role of a defensive bulwark. He has made considerable progress in a relatively short career so far.
Centre-Back: Sumit Rathi
Sumit Rathi delivered some noteworthy performances for ATK in their title-winning run last season. The 18-year-old seamlessly adapted to the demands of the league and that speaks volumes about his talent and temperament.
Similarly, he has raised hopes among fans that the defender could possibly make the step ahead and represent the senior national team, as efficiently as he played for the Kolkata-based club. In his debut ISL season, Rathi made 8.21 clearances and 1.92 tackles in each game on average. He emanated a very assured, energetic presence from the backline and those are some traits that could make him stand apart for the national team.
Left-Back: Sanjeev Stalin
Former Indian Arrows player Sanjeev Stalin is currently honing his skills at Portuguese top division club CD Aves. Stalin signed a two-year contract with the European outfit in February this year and the AIFF Elite Academy product looks to have turned a very remarkable leaf in his career.
Stalin is a very technical player, displays an immense amount of work-rate and has a mean left foot too. He can curl in a cross and track back to diligently do his defensive tasks. It remains to be seen whether he chooses to return back to India at the end of his ongoing Portuguese stint, but Stalin definitely could be touted to don the national team jersey sometime later.
Central Defensive Midfielder: Thoiba Singh Moirangthem
Thoiba Singh is one of the promising teenagers that India can boast of right now. The 17-year-old is the youngest-ever player to have netted a goal in the AFC Cup, when he achieved this feat whilst playing for Punjab FC against Manang Marshyangdi.
Thoiba is an industrious, gritty midfielder who can play in a number of positions, but primarily slots into the defensive role in the middle of the park. He could be a sturdy shield for the backline and it would be interesting to witness whether the player translates his talent into productive performances in the ISL with Odisha FC next season. That stint could be very decisive with regards to his further prospects to playing for the national team.
Meanwhile, Sk Sahil can be considered as a huge competitor for the spot after his eye-catching performances for Mohun Bagan in their title-winning campaign.
Central Defensive Midfielder: Amarjit Singh Kiyam
India’s captain from the country’s first-ever representation in a FIFA World Cup, Amarjit Singh Kiyam is a laudable young talent. He operates smoothly through the centre and is confident on the ball. Amarjit’s footwork enables him to make his way out when his adversaries hound him on the pitch. He defends resolutely too and registered 4.62 tackles and 1.25 interceptions in eight ISL matches in 2019-20.
He is a player who finds a fine balance between his offensive and defensive duties. Interestingly, the Jamshedpur FC player will be challenged staunchly for a place in the Indian football team by Jeakson Singh Thounaojam, who also plays as a defensive midfielder and put up brilliant performances for Kerala Blasters last season.
Left Winger: Nongdamba Naorem
Nongdamba Naorem is a skillful winger who played for Mohun Bagan on loan from Kerala Blasters in the 2019-20 campaign. The 20-year-old started 16 matches for the I-League champions and scored two goals. Additionally, he notched five assists in those games and rounded off a very productive stint with the Mariners.
His immaculate footwork is noteworthy, but wingers of Naorem’s age often fail to deliver the required results inside the box. However, the former Minerva Punjab player’s tenure in the I-League has arguably proven that he can translate his control and flair on the ball into tangible goal contributions for the team. Indian football requires more attackers and forwards who have goalscoring or creative abilities and Naorem definitely looks to be one such player.
Central Attacking Midfielder: Givson Singh Moirangthem
Givson Singh has played in multiple positions in his time with Indian Arrows, but the lad appears to be someone who can link the midfield to the forward line. That is because of his dexterity and tendency to pick out passes that break the opposition’s midfield or defensive lines.
He scored and assisted two goals each in 16 I-League games last term. Givson’s nimble footwork coupled with the ability to control the tempo and pace of the game before releasing a decisive pass into the final third suggest that he can adapt into the No.10 role.
Right Winger: Vikram Partap Singh
Vikram Partap Singh has been the talk of the town in the ongoing transfer window and rightly so. The 18-year-old is a promising winger and can deliver profound performances from the right wing. He has explosive pace, accelerates swiftly when near the box and has the physicality to deal with imposing defenders.
The teenager shoots very firmly, can deliver low crosses efficiently and has an eye for a goal, which sees him make late runs into the box. In 14 I-League games last season, Singh scored four goals. Expectations are high from the starlet and he will have to make a smooth transition to the ISL next season in order to further demonstrate his potential.
Striker: Himanshu Jangra
At merely 16 years of age, Himanshu Jangra is gaining a reputation as one of the superior forward talents that India possesses currently. The striker is versatile enough to play in multiple positions in the forward line and has a commanding presence inside the box. Jangra’s aerial prowess is commendable.
He is at a stage in his career where he is grasping numerous aspects of the game to evolve into an even better striking talent. Jangra provided a short glimpse of the same in the 2019 SAFF U-15 Championship. He finished as the highest goalscorer in the tournament, putting the ball into the back of the net seven times. He has ample time ahead of him and is definitely a beacon of hope amidst the dearth of reliable goalscoring talents in the country.