These players are widely expected to make an impact for the Blue Tigers in the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers.

The Indian football team left for Qatar yesterday, as their 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers’ campaign resumes after an 18-month hiatus. With just three points and no victories from five games, the Blue Tigers are languishing second from bottom in Group E and face an uphill battle in their final three games.

They’re set to play hosts Qatar on June 3 followed by a game against Bangladesh on June 7, before closing out the first round against Afghanistan on June 15. Igor Stimac has named a strong 28-man squad for the competition, including star forward Sunil Chhetri, who returns after missing India’s friendlies to Oman and UAE in March this year due to COVID-19.

Some key names who missed those games have been called up. There is also one new addition in Glan Martins, who excelled for FC Goa in the 2020-21 season.

On that note, Khel Now takes a look at the returnees in the Indian football team squad:

4. Rahul Bheke

Indian football
Bheke hasn’t scored for India yet

Here’s someone you have seen in Indian colours before. Rahul Bheke played nine times for the Blue Tigers in 2019, the year he broke into the national side. Now, the defender is all set to return after missing the March friendlies with an injury.

Predominantly a right-back by trade, the 30-year-old has become a bonafide star of the game with ISL side Bengaluru FC. He can play across any position in defence and is especially deadly in transitions.

Bheke’s headed goal, which clinched the ISL title for Bengaluru in 2019, showed that he can be an occasional goal-threat too. Needless to say, he will be looking to open his account for the Indian football team next month.

3. Udanta Singh

Udanta Singh is widely regarded as the next big thing in Indian football. The 24-year-old lad from Manipur featured in all 12 games for the national team in 2019. He will be crucial to their fortunes in the home stretch of these World Cup Qualifiers.

His goal-scoring output for the club has diminished over the last few years. But, Igor Stimac will hope to have him firing at all cylinders for the Blue Tigers in the crucial matches next month.

2. Subhasish Bose

Bose is known for his impeccable defensive skills

Subhasish Bose has been a key figure in the national team’s defence over the last four years, so much so that his exclusion from the squad for the International Friendlies in March raised eyebrows. But, now he’s back for the World Cup Qualifiers and might come straight into the left-back position.

The 25-year-old isn’t your modern, attack-minded full-back, but makes up for it with impeccable defensive skills. He times his tackles to perfection and averaged almost three clearances per game last season. Bose’s passing accuracy is second to none as well.

He’ll be crucial in keeping out Qatar’s potent forwards like Almoez Ali and Hassan Al-Haydos.

1. Pronay Halder

Another senior member of the squad returning to the Indian football team, Pronay Halder made his international debut in 2015 and has since earned 20 caps.

His tenure has been hampered by injuries and a loss of form, but the 28-year-old has played a starring role in the ISL for FC Goa and ATK/ATK Mohun Bagan in recent years, suggesting his best days aren’t behind him.

A technically sound defensive midfielder, Halder is the key to regaining possession and breaking up opposition moves. He has a tendency to concede fouls, but with him manning the midfield, the Blue Tigers’ side looks more balanced.

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