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The Indian U-16 team: Know your players, strengths, weaknesses and more!

Written by: Punit Tripathi

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Playing an aggressive game, the team have built a reputation for themselves, by defeating sides like Besiktas U-16 and Iraq on the run.

The India U-16 national team is set to participate in the AFC U-16 Championship in Malaysia, starting September 20. The boys have been on a gruelling schedule for the last two years and counting, starting with a 100% record at the SAFF Championship that they lifted. Coached by former Goan player Bibiano Fernandes, the team has produced some brilliant performances against several Asian and European teams. The team reached the second round in 2002, their best performance in all appearances.

Playing an aggressive game, the team have built a reputation for themselves, by defeating sides like Besiktas U-16 and Iran on the run. The team participated in several tournaments like the India-Egypt Cup, the Jockey Cup, MIC and the Sportchain Cup in Spain, that featured Serbia, China and Jordan. India, meanwhile, also defeated finalists Iraq in August.



Sunil Chhetri has his say on the U-16 gaffer

ABOUT THE TEAM

Khel Now will take a look at the players of the squad, their playing styles and their strengths and weaknesses in this exclusive piece.

GOALKEEPERS

Lalbiakhlua Jongte – The northeastern goalkeeper has been one of the mainstays of the side in the near past. Jongte has been groomed by Bibiano and was a starter before Niraj Kumar made the spot under the bar his own. Jongte, whenever given the chance, displays enough sensibility and balance with the backline, having played with the same players for a substantial amount of time.

Niraj Kumar – Niraj is set to start the games, if he doesn’t make any big gaffes. Kumar has been one of the unsung heroes of this team in the last year or so. Niraj commands the backline with authority, and is not afraid to come out, clear, and collect the ball aerially. 

Manik Baliyan – The squad is yet to be announced, but Baliyan can be expected to make the cut as the third goalkeeper. The Uttar Pradesh lad looks unlikely to play a role, with both Jongte and Kumar looking in fine touch and shape.

DEFENDERS

Shabas Ahammed Moothedath – The young defender hails from Kerala, and has played lots of games with the side. He has been part of the Indian fold even before Bibiano took control of the team. Shabas plays as a left-back, and has also played as the right-back whenever called upon. His strength is his defensive discipline.

Thoiba Moirangthem – Easily one of the most talented defenders in the Indian fold at the moment, Thoiba Moirangthem is already being noted for his strong performances. Moirangthem is one of the ball-playing defenders in the backline and his powerful presence is easily a boon for the team. He’s also a presence when it comes to set-pieces.

Youngster Harpreet Singh Sahota builds his style around senior international Sandesh Jhingan

Harpreet Singh – Harpreet is a centre-back from Punjab, who happily slots into the right-back role when the need arrives. Nicknamed ‘Happy’ by his teammates, the lad looks up to Sandesh Jhingan and is good in the air. Powerful and sturdy, Singh is a little slow and is not the best passer in the team, but manages just fine with grit and determination. He can be expected to lead the side in the absence of Rohit Danu and Vikram Pratap Singh, if the need arises.

Samir Karketta – The full-back from Odisha embodies everything the state stands for. He has fought several odds to make it to this level and his attacking abilities as well as defensive stability, is second to none. Featuring at right-back, Karketta will be fighting for his position against Lalrokima.

Lalrokima – The diminutive lad from Mizoram continues the good work his state-mates have already done. Jerry Lalrinzuala is the most recent full-back from the array of defenders the state has provided and Lalrokima is another mean name on the list. You expect nothing short of sheer resolute defending whenever he’s on the pitch.

Gurkirat Singh - The Punjab lad has it all. He’s tall, he’s sturdy, he knows how to make the strong tackle and also knows how to convert those half-chances in the box. One of the better goalscoring defenders in the Indian camp, Gurkirat can be expected to slot in the full-back positions.

Watch: India U16 Vs Besiktas U16 highlights and goals

Manish Chaudhary – Joining Nishu Kumar in the list that is increasing from Uttar Pradesh’ Muzzafarnagar, Manish is another full-back who has played centrally whenever the coach calls out. Sturdy and fit as a fiddle, Chaudhary has a fine head in the box and loves his clean-sheets by his own admission.

MIDFIELDERS

Ravi Bahadur Rana – The #7 is one of the creative lynchpins, but holds onto the ball a lot. Expect him to come off the bench when the opposition defenders are tired and create and score goals at will. Rana hails from Jammu & Kashmir, and is certainly going to become one of the top players the state has contributed to Indian football.

Lalchhanhima Sailo – Sailo is the heartbeat of the team, in the truest sense of the word. Not as creative or speedy as his predecessors from Mizoram like Zehry Jirsanga, Shylo Malsawmtluanga, Jeje Lalpekhlua and Lalrindika Ralte, Sailo knows how to control the tempo of the game with his deep positioning and passing to make sure that his team keeps ticking. Sailo excels in spaces and is not greatly effective against teams that press high and fast.

Givson Singh Moirangthem – The Moussa Dembele of this team, Givson gives his everything to make sure the ball stays in the opposition half for as long as possible. Singh plays as a #8 usually, but can play further forward if and when the need arises. Givson has been silently continuing the good work and amidst a transition, has managed to keep his place in the side.

Ridge D'Mello - A young midfielder, D'Mello started captaining Maharashtra when he was 14. He's good on the ball and keeps his head cool in possession, managing to create something out of nothing. He seldom looses the ball, and likes to play the ball forward. Expect him to receive some playing time. 

Ricky John Shabong – Ricky is just 15, but can and certainly has created more chances than his age in several games already. A good striker of the ball, Shabong is the #10, or the player who takes the responsibility in the hole for the side. Bibiano has entrusted Shabong with a lot of creative and forward-going responsibilities, and the youngster hasn’t disappointed yet.

Bhuvanesh Shendre – The midfielder who has played a bits-and-pieces’ role under Bibiano scored the key, late goal against Iran to stun the Asian champions earlier this year. Shendre makes late runs into the box and if the wing-play is strong, his headers can add a different edge to the side.

Eric Remruatpuia Chhangte and Shubham Sawant are not expected to play leading roles, but can be expected to be called upon when needed.


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FORWARDS

Vikram Pratap Singh – Name a thing this lad cannot do and we’ll tell you that you’re wrong. Vikram would bleed on the pitch, if that means victory for India. In the absence of striker Rohit Danu, Vikram led the line for the team at the qualifiers and produced memorable displays against Iraq and Palestine. He can lead the line, can play as the right-winger and can also role up as the right-wing-back. You ask him, he’d do it. He deserves to share the captaincy with Rohit Danu.

Rohit Danu – A lot of Indian football experts expect him to be the next natural talent after Bhaichung Bhutia. Hailing from the geometrically opposite Uttarakhand, Danu can score goals for fun and was expected to play a role at the FIFA U-17 World Cup last year, but was kept out due to an injury. He will lead the line for the team alongside Vikram and is expected to walk the side out.

Bekey Oram – Creative from the wings in a 3-forward system, Bekey is undisputedly the best inside forward in the team. Oram, who hails from Odisha, has already been lapped up by Bengaluru FC and keeps making appearances for the team, either from the start or the bench.

Ridge Melvin Demello – Maharashtra lad Ridge Demello is another product of the AIFF Regional Academy and is one of the better players to watch when India are on song. His technical ability to touch and go and beat defenders with a wall pass is a delight to watch. Melvin is expected to don the #9 jersey and can be expected to operate behind Danu.

 

Watch: Watch all of India's goals in 2018 WAFF U-16 Championship

Adarsh Rai Das and Shanon Aleixinho Viegas can also be expected to make the cut, but the fans should not expect too much action or playing time for them.

FORMATION

This side can be expected to operate in a 4-3-3 formation, something they’ve done regularly in the recent past. With Niraj Kumar under the bar, Thoiba and Gurkirat can be expected to man the defence. Shabas Ahammed and Samir Karketta are expected to start as full-backs, with Lalchhanhima Sailo sitting just in front of the back four.

The remaining two roles in the midfield can be expected to be divided between Givson Singh and Ridge Demello, one a box-to-box midfielder, while the other donning the creative role. On the left of the attacking third is Bekey Oram, while Vikram Pratap Singh is expected to make the right forward role his own. Rohit Danu will lead the line.


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CHANCES

The team is one of the most resolute and hard-working teams on the Asian circuit, given the performances and results they have produced. Under the Goan manager, the boys have created a strong bond and that has been on display on the pitch.

India will face Vietnam (21st September), Iran (24th September) and Indonesia (27th September) in the group stage, and are expected to go through with at least two wins. If India manage to reach the semi-finals of the tournament and they certainly have the arms to do so, they will qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup for the first time in the country’s history. 

For full coverage of the AFC U-16 Championship 2018, follow Khel Now.

Published: Fri Sep 14, 2018 05:15 PM IST

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