A number of top talents are eligible for a national team callup for the qualifiers.
India were drawn with UAE, Oman and the Kyrgyz Republic in the upcoming 2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers. The Blue Tigers, although have never qualified for the finals of the tournament, will be raring to go into the games in October. It will be interesting to see which players receive callups to represent the Indian U-23 team at the qualifiers.
The qualifiers, which will be held between 23-31 October, will decide eight participants for the finals of the tournament. While a flurry of Indian players are eligible to represent the nation at these games, only a talented few will received the nod. Here are 15 players who could represent India at the AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers.
15. Vikram Pratap Singh
Mumbai City FC’s teenage sensation Vikram Pratap Singh first came under the limelight while playing for India at the AFC U-16 Championship under Bibiano Fernandes. While he could managed only 20 minutes during the entire 2020-21 season, his previous stints at Indian Arrows and Indian U-16 side could prove valuable to be picked for the qualifiers later in 2021.
14. Givson Singh
One of the most exciting upcoming attacking midfielders in the country, Givson Singh will also garner attention on him for the U-23 qualifiers. Although he has lacked much time on the pitch at Kerala Blasters, he has prior experience of playing for India’s developmental teams. The former Indian Arrows star has two goals and two assists in 16 I-League games as well.
13. Makan Winkle Chote
The Minerva Academy have contributed many players to the Indian football team in the last decade and Makan Winkle Chote will only be an addition to the long list. The exciting young attacker currently plays for FC Goa. Notably, he represented the Gaurs in the AFC Champions League and looks ready to don the national colors during the AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers.
12. Amarjit Singh Kiyam
He may have stepped away from the spotlight in recent years but remains an exciting prospect nonetheless. The FC Goa midfielder recently turned up for the Gaurs in the AFC Champions League under Juan Ferrando. He was the captain of the Indian side which featured at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017.
11. Jeakson Singh
The 20-year-old remains the only Indian player to score at a FIFA World Cup. He did so in 2017, when he scored against Colombia during FIFA U-17 World Cup a group stage match. He has recently impressed for Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League and could find his way into India’s squad for the qualifiers.
10. Rahul KP
One of the most popular Indian players at Kerala Blasters, it is hard to believe that the winger is only 21-year-old. The exciting young prospect has scored four goals in 25 appearances for the Yellow Army. His performances have made him a fan favourite and he could be one of the candidates to get a call-up for the qualifiers.
9. Thoiba Singh Moirangthem
Odisha FC’s Thoiba Singh is one of the options who will have some serious consideration for the midfield. The central-midfielder may not have much experience in the ISL but has valuable knowledge of playing in an Asian competition. He was part of the Minerva Punjab side which featured in the AFC Cup in 2019. He also became the youngest Indian goal scorer in the history of AFC Cup when he scored against Nepalese side Manang Marshyangdi.
8. Ashish Rai
Another player from Hyderabad FC, Asish Rai established himself as one of the best full-backs in the country in the 2020-21 season, courtesy of his performances for Hyderabad FC in the ISL. A modern full back, Rai could be considered for the AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers later this year.
7. Sumit Rathi
The ISL Emerging Player of the Season in 2019/20, Sumit Rathi will be a strong candidate for defence. The ATK Mohun Bagan youngster is versatile and offers much needed energy to his side. His flexibility in defence could give an upper hand in terms of selection for the U-23 national team for the qualifiers.
6. Bikash Yumnam
The 17-year-old currently plays for I-League outfit Roundglass Punjab FC. He has previously represented India at the U-19 level and could become a part of the Indian side at the AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers. His former coach Bibiano Fernandes has said that the teenager could play for European clubs in the future.
Bikash was also the first Indian to make into The Guardian’s Next Generation players in 2020. The list had also featured Ansu Fati, Ilaix Moribaof FC Barcelona, Rodrygo, Takefusa Kubo of Real Madrid and Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood previously.
5. Nongdamba Naorem
Another exciting winger from Kerala Blasters, Nongdamba Naorem is also currently a 21-year-old. He was part of the Mohun Bagan side that won the I-League during the 2019-20 season under Kibu Vicuna. He has already scored some impressive goals in his career, which could help him break into the Indian U-23 football team side for the qualifiers.
4. Akash Mishra
The full-back had a breakthrough season during the ISL 2020/21 campaign. The 19-year-old left-back heavily impressed the fans and pundits alike, due to his superior work-rate and tenacity. He recently made his debut for the Indian senior national team under Igor Stimac. The Hyderabad FC star is a strong candidate to receive a call-up for the team.
3. Suresh Singh Wangjam
Suresh Singh Wangjam has come a long way in recent years and has become a mainstay for both club and country. The midfielder plays regularly for Bengaluru FC and was a part of the Indian squad in the recent FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Suresh is one of the most highly-rated midfielders in India at the moment.
2. Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem
Arguably one of the best goalkeepers in India at the moment, there could be some serious conversation for including Dheeraj in the Indian U-23 team for the qualifiers. The goalkeeper earned widespread plaudits for his exceptional performances in the AFC Champions League with FC Goa. He was also a part of the Indian side at the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Popularly known as Apuia, Lalengmawia won the ISL Emerging Player of the Season award for the 2020/21 season. He captained NorthEast United FC at the age of 20, making him the youngest to captain an ISL team. Apuia also made his international debut after playing for India against Oman in a friendly. He is a strong favourite to represent India at the qualifiers.
Honourable mention: Subho Ghosh, Sk. Sahil, Subho Paul, Sanjeev Stalin, Prabhsukhan Singh Gill, Ninthoinganba Meetei, Komal Thatal, Rohit Danu, Rahim Ali, Abhijit Sarkar, Aniket Jadhav, Phrangki Buam, MD Nawaz, Shubham Sarangi, Deepak Tangri, Priceton Rebello, Muhammad Nemil, Emil Benny, Edmund Lalrindika, Himanshu Jangra.