Look out for these starlets amongst the hosts ranks.
The much-awaited FIFA U-17 World Cup kicks off later today, with Colombia playing Ghana and India locking horns with the star-studded United States. India U-17 didn’t have a strong side a few months ago but, on the back of a handful of overseas tournaments and friendly games, they do seem to have the personnel required to carry the hopes of a billion people. Here are five Indian youth internationals who will likely set Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi abuzz.
Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem
The shot-stopper will look to shine between the sticks
One of the most experienced players in the side, Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem will likely be the first-choice goalkeeper in the tournament having played 15 games in the build-up to the U-17 World Cup.
International games are no alien concept to the prodigious Manipur teenager, as he has previously lifted India’s first SAFF U-16 Championship trophy in 2013 at the tender age of 13. Although he was reduced to a bit-part role in the ensuing AFC U-16 Championship in Goa last year, he announced himself again, making two penalty saves in three games. An excellent reader of the game, his performance between the sticks could prove crucial to India’s fortunes in their first FIFA World Cup tournament ever.
The midfielder will play a key role in India’s campaign
Komal Thatal, a 17-year-old Sikkim lad, has been made the poster boy for India’s campaign in the U-17 World Cup and deservedly so. A versatile attacker who can play down the left flank as effectively as he can in the hole, he has scored more goals and racked up more appearances than any other player in the roster, with one of his goals – a phenomenal one – being the solitary goal India U-17 scored in 2016 BRICS U-17 Football Cup, against Brazil last year.
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The striker will lead the line for the Junior Colts
A pacy 17-year-old striker from Maharashtra, Aniket Anil Jadhav had to overcome numerous hurdles to find himself named in Luis Norton de Matos’ 21-man squad despite boasting a strong pedigree having represented India at FC Bayern Munich Youth Cup and played – and scored numerous goals – for Pune Football Club across various age groups.
However, he has since not only proved his doubters wrong but has also made admirers out of his doubters, being a regular starter. Touted to be one of the first names on the starting eleven when India take on the United States later today, he will look to add more goals to make his international record as impressive as his club record.
Suresh Singh Wangjam
Wangjam led the team at the AFC U-16 Championship last year
India’s captain at 2016 AFC U-16 Championship, Suresh Singh Wangjam may have lost his captain’s armband, but his performance level from the middle of the park has only improved. Operating alongside skipper Amarjit Singh Kiyam, he’ll look to not only shut out opposition’s midfield but also solidify his status as a proven goal-scorer.
His converting from the spot five minutes into a tasty affair with Saudi Arabia in Margao helped India earn the solitary point they earned in the AFC U-16 Championship group stages, and he’ll look to help his nation out on a larger scale in the next few days.
Jitendra has been a solid player
A few held Jitendra Singh’s lack of height against him when former India U-17 coach Nicolai Adam named him in his 2016 AFC U-16 Championship squad, but his showings in the 11 games India played seems to have given enough reasons for observers to conclude that he ought to be at the heart of India’s defence in Delhi.
Additionally, his international experience will be detrimental as his partner in Minerva Punjab’s Anwar Ali has played only five games as opposed to his 28. India’s defensive record in BRICS U-17 Football Cup, Granatkin Cup and Naciones Cup were far from impressive, but the West Bengal lad should be keen to buck the trend.