The youngsters have experienced mixed fortunes with some making the cut for the big league while others have struggled to break the door open.

The India U-17 team was the first side in the nation’s history to participate in a football World Cup at any level and that happened on 6th October 2017, two years ago. India played its first game against the United States at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi, and conceded three times in the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017.

The team may have lost all three games it played in the group stage, but still commands a cult among the Indian youth and the fans that thronged the seats at the 60,000-strong seating arena. Some of the names have gone on to become household features among footballing discussions, some are trying to make their mark, while some have been wiped off the horizon due to different reasons.

Khel Now brings you a comprehensive report about the progress of all the players that donned the Blue jersey during the tournament. Let’s start the trip down memory lane.

Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem – If there was one name that rang loud and wide, it was Dheeraj’s. Numerous saves, some delightful long balls and a huge furore in the agent network to sign him, the goalkeeper looked like a breakaway star.

The lad has signed for ATK from Kerala Blasters and has already played 12 games at the senior level. He has a long road ahead and certainly is on track to take the baton from Gurpreet Singh Sandhu years down the line, if he continues to develop.

ATK Goalkeeper

Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem was arguably India’s best performer at the tournament

Dheeraj on his memories of the WC: “It’s been two years, but the memory still stays and it will carry on till the end of my life. FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 was big platform and a great experience. It gave me a lot of confidence and I had learnt a lot from the entire tournament. It has had a big impact on my career and it inspires me a lot to work hard. Always a moment to cherish.”

Matches played during the World Cup: USA, Colombia, and Ghana

Prabhsukhan Singh Gill – If there’s one person in the entire footballing universe who benefited from Dheeraj’s transfer to the ISL, it is Prabhsukhan. Gill himself has a very safe pair of hands and has displayed it time and again for the Indian Arrows.

The lad has shown maturity, communication and is a safe bet both aerially and against low balls. Gill has the ability, the discipline and the mental strength.

Matches – None

Sunny Dhaliwal – Sunny came from Canada, was 6’5 tall and hailed from Punjab. The boy may not have grabbed the headlines after the tournament got over as he returned for his studies, but certainly played a part during the competition. He was manager Luis Norton de Matos’ second choice for the final game against Ghana and kept Dheeraj on his toes with some strong performances during training.

Matches – None

Anwar Ali – Do you remember that tremendous free-kick that flew past the Argentine goalkeeper and took the India U-19 team to a famous 2-1 win against their South American counterparts? Yes, the moment of magic came from Anwar Ali, signed by Mumbai City FC. The Punjab-born lad showed immense courage in the backline throughout the tournament and still is regarded as one of the best young defensive  prospects in the country by many.

Matches – USA, Colombia and Ghana

Anwar Ali: The centre-back who can score spot on curling free-kicks

Jitendra Singh – Currently the captain of the U-19 team that won the SAFF U-18 Championship, Jitendra Singh has added versatility to his repertoire. The Kolkata-born defender has plied his trade on the defensive flank and recently took a place in midfield for his side. He has signed a deal with Jamshedpur FC and needs to work on his distribution to get to his prime.

Matches – USA and Ghana

Sanjeev Stalin – The man behind Jeakson Singh Thounajam’s historic header that made the JLN Stadium erupt into a mini-earthquake, it was Stalin’s sweet curler from the corner flag that served as the precursor to India’s first goal at a FIFA World Cup. The youngster has one of the most refined left-foots in the Indian footballing circuit and is adept at playing any role down the left side of the pitch. He’s still playing for the Indian Arrows and has his eyes set on something big.

Matches – USA, Colombia and Ghana

The full-back is fast and a free-kick specialist

Boris Singh Thangjam – The cute right-back is one of the fastest players on the ball and if he’s fit and willing, he can be one of the trickiest dribblers in the country. Boris reminds us of a certain Sameehg Doutie and has signed on the dotted line for the South African’s former club, ATK. The youngster, though, needs to work on his decision-making in the final third and his crossing. If he develops, there’s talent that could make him an enormous threat.

Matches – Colombia and Ghana

Namit Deshpande – Namit was from the US Soccer Development Academy and had come to India to don the Blue jersey for the tournament. The burly-built centre-back has returned after the end of the tournament, but was part of the team that played Colombia. Namit, however, made a positional error for the first goal that was scored by Sebastian Ragga. He played out the rest of the match well, until India conceded from a swift counter-attack to cancel out Jeakson’s equalizing header.

Matches – Colombia

Hendry Antonay – Hendry was the only unused defender in the entire team throughout the tournament, but the Chennaiyin FC man is slowly rising up the charts. He has taken the longer route, but is a handful with his tall physique. Antonay was slowed down by an injury last year, but has featured for Chennaiyin’s reserve sides.

Matches – None

Suresh Singh Wangjam – Suresh Singh went from the Indian U-17 side to the Indian Arrows development project and the strongly-built midfielder is now playing for Bengaluru FC reserves. Going into the Indian Super League, coach Carles Cuadrat may use his presence against weaker opposition to add more experience to his bench. The lad will do well to add some more distribution and speed to his abilities.

Suresh on his memories of the WC: “FIFA World Cup 2017 was a great experience and I was very lucky for being part of it and I would like to thank my parents and my coaches who all were part of my success. It was a great learning curve everyday during the World Cup where we got a great opportunity to play against top teams from all over the world. It was not an easy task for me to be in World Cup squad. Believe in the work you do to get greater success “

Matches – USA and Ghana

Rahul KP – Rahul started the first game against USA due to Boris Singh’s suspension at right-back. In the second game, he played as a left winger against Colombia and in the third against Ghana, he was a left forward. Probably the player with the biggest growth chart during the tournament, Rahul has already become a household name in Kerala and signed for Kerala Blasters in June this year. At just 18, he was toying with Lucian Goian and has the confidence of a phoenix. This lad can be expected to go places.

Matches – USA, Colombia and Ghana

Jeakson Singh Thounajam – If there’s one name close to becoming a cult already, it has to be Jeakson Singh Thounajam. My friends that knew nothing about Indian football had heard of his name after that historic 82nd minute goal against Colombia. It was a picture-perfect moment for Indian football and a lot of fans have that moment etched on their tables, walls or at least in their hearts. Jeakson has a contract with Kerala Blasters, but was with the Arrows side last season. He was also part of the team that recently participated in and lifted the SAFF U-18 Championship.

Ninthoinganba Meetei – The Most Valuable Player of the SAFF U-18 Championship, Ninthoi Meetei is fast, quick on the ball and is good at decision-making. India has had a lot of modern right wingers, from Steven Dias to the currently ruling Udanta Singh and in some time, Meetei will be knocking on the doors of the national team. Meetei has gone back home, signed for NorthEast United and will have a lot of eyes on him.

Matches – USA and Colombia

Amarjit Singh Kiyam

Amarjit Singh Kiyam has become a mainstay of the senior national team

Amarjit Singh Kiyam (C) – Your country is playing a World Cup for the first time and you are the first man to walk out on the pitch with the entire team looking up to you and following you, how does it feel? Ask Amarjit Singh Kiyam, Indian football’s current blue-eyed boy. Igor Stimac, the national team manager, has praised him effervescently and he has earned a starting place in the Blue Tigers’ XI at just 19. Amarjit will ply his trade for Jamshedpur FC this season, and is being regarded as one of the calmest midfielders on the ball in the Indian game.

Amarjit on his memories of the WC: “Playing in front of 60,000 people was an enchanting experience. People shouting and cheering “India India” from the stands boosted our confidence, inspired us to play at our best. It was really heart-warming and a unforgettable moment in my footballing journey. The moment my brother Jaekson scored the first FIFA world cup goal for India against COLOMBIA was huge for all of us. It will be treasured for lifetime. The instant happiness and celebration of scoring a WC goal is incomparable.”

Matches – USA, Colombia and Ghana

Komal Thatal – Komal is the only player to score a goal for India against any Brazilian national team and the lad achieved that feat at the tender age of 15. An inverted winger (a rare breed in Indian football), Thatal helped his reputation with a smooth touch and finish against Gurpreet Singh Sandhu from outside the box, in an ISL game last season.

Komal Thatal’s goal against Brazil

Some of Thatal’s tricks and moves are top-notch, but he needs to use them at the right time and place. Decision-making, from the youngster, needs to get better. He has already received call-ups to national team camps and is expected to become a regular if he performs to the best of his ability.

Matches – USA

Nongdamba Naorem – Naorem was involved in all three games and some of his skills were mesmerizing. The lad from Wabagai has continued his development and currently plays for Kibu Vicuna at Mohun Bagan. The trick star continues to twist ankles and his breathtaking goal against Shillong Lajong, beating five players is not one to be forgotten. The upcoming season of the I-league will be keenly observed and a lot of eyes will be on this No. 16. (He’s on loan from Kerala Blasters).

Nongdamba on his memories of the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017: “It’s a turning point in my football career which continues to push me further more in achieving my aims. It was a good experience playing against the big teams … So, one of the best experiences in my career so far.”

Matches – USA, Colombia and Ghana

Abhijit Sarkar – India’s proper No. 10 at the tournament, Abhijit had a touch too many for his age during his U-16 days. He started the first game and his link-up with Suresh and Amarjit wasn’t as fluid because of the positional gap on the pitch between the defense and attack. He gave a better account of himself against Colombia and is currently playing for East Bengal.

Matches – USA and Colombia

Lalengmawia – A free-spirited player, Lalengmawia replaced his captain Kiyam as he fell on the ground injured in the final group stage game against Ghana. The midfielder tried his best, but could not stop the African opposition from scoring four times. He had also played a late role in the first game against the USA, but looked overawed by the stage. He is currently with NorthEast United and will need to work very hard to make the starting XI.

Matches – USA and Ghana

Mohd. Shahjahan – The only unused substitute during the World Cup, Shahjahan who was in the scheme of things, was subsequently dropped by Nicolai Adam for his weak frame, but was re-selected by Portuguese De Matos. He did not play a part in the tournament, but has played for Minerva Punjab and is currently on loan at Delhi United.

Matches – None

Rahim Ali – One of India’s only two forwards, Rahim Ali looked (and even today looks) more comfortable in the wide positions than centrally. Ali was tall and powerful, but wasn’t the most skillful player India possessed on the ball. Had Aman Chhetri not been injured, Rahim’s chances of getting selected were pretty slim. He took part in all three games during the tournament and is with the Indian Super League side Chennaiyin FC.

Matches – USA, Colombia and Ghana

Aniket Jadhav – A lot was expected from Aniket, but the youngster looked a little too raw for all the responsibility anointed to his shoulders. The forward was given the job to lead India’s line against foreign defenders and the boy from Kolhapur tried his best. He created some half-chances, but nothing notably impressive. Jadhav has continued his development and is currently with Jamshedpur FC. He had trained for three months at the Blackburn Rovers Academy earlier this year and it will be interesting to see how that has changed/helped his game.

Luis Norton de Matos (Coach): De Matos replaced Nicolai Adam in the lead up to the mega event and faced an unenviable task. Following the event, he headed the re-brand Indian Arrows project for a season. The tactician subsequently returned to his homeland. He’s currently with local side CF União.