After two wins and a narrow defeat in preparatory friendlies, the India U-19 squad looks good to walk the distance. Read the detailed analysis.
India played a preparatory friendly against Qatar U-19 on the 28th of October, the match resulting in a 1-0 defeat to the Blue Cubs with Deepak Tangri making a defensive error. A lapse in concentration from the centre-back saw him lose possession of a throw-in from close that led to an easy one-on-one, giving Qatar the solitary goal of the game.
The team also played another practice game against Qatari club Al Ghafara, winning the encounter 3-1 with a brace from Rahim Ali and the third goal from Princeton Rebello. Besides hosts Saudi Arabia, India have been clubbed with Yemen and Turkmenistan in Group D and play their first match against Saudi Arabia on November 4.
As the next-gen India gears up to play the AFC U-19 qualifiers, we take a look at the squad, the systems that can be applied by Luis Norton De Matos and a detailed study about every Indian player on the tour.
Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem: ‘Where would we be without him’ is a quote every Indian football fan has been using ever since the FIFA U-17 World Cup. The next big thing for Indian football, Dheeraj continues the trend of Subrata Paul and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
Mohammad Nawaz: Called back by Luis Norton De Matos after he wasn’t selected for the World Cup, Nawaz has played a lot of football with the U-17 lads and was India’s first choice at the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2015. Sunny Dhaliwal has reportedly gone back to Canada to complete his education and Nawaz is good enough to replace the big shoes, quite literally.
Prabhsukhan Gill: What works in his favor is his desire to work hard and push Dheeraj out of his comfort zone to perform better and not get complacent. Gill is a safe goalkeeper, and with time, will surely turn into a beast under the bar. Gumpe Rime has worked a lot with Gill in the last camp. Gill played the second half of the practice game against Garhwal FC.
Namgyal Bhutia: The second most versatile player on the pitch, Namgyal is known as much for his control, long balls, close link-up play as much as for his cool hairstyle. Bhutia played the SAFF U-18 Championships in September as a right centre-back, finding Edmund and Lalawmpuia regularly with long balls. In the friendly against Garhwal, Bhutia played as a right winger in the first half, displaying good ability and link up with Boris.
Sahil Panwar: There are players like Roy Keane who aren’t the best, but they have a unique leadership quality to walk the team out on the pitch and fight till the end, and Uttarakhand lad Sahil possesses just that. Adept at playing centre-back, left central-back and left-back, Sahil is the most probable option to captain this team in the absence of Amarjit.
Deepak Tangri: The lanky defender displayed a brilliant performance against Garhwal FC in the training game, showcasing maturity as well as brevity in clearing his lines on a number of occasions. India’s best defender (arguably) at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, Anwar Ali, though, is likely to take his place.
Ashish Rai: Adept at playing at right back and the right wing, Ashish is one of the lads that need a little grooming on his position play and confidence on the pitch during take-ons. Ashish, though, certainly has a part to play and can be a more than capable cover on the right side of the pitch.
Boris Singh Thangjam: The Indian No. 1 right back at the World Cup impressed one and all with his recovering sense, speed and dribbling abilities and coach Luis Norton de Matos looks to be impressed by the cute-looking right-back. Boris is also known for his bursts up front, his close control and ability to win half chances.
Sanjeev Stalin: The player that sent in the beautiful delivery for India’s first ever goal at a FIFA Tournament, Sanjeev Stalin, is certainly one to hold onto his spot. Stalin is one of India’s rare gems, understanding and practising the importance of keeping the ball on the ground. Sound positioning on the pitch, Stalin was one of the better performers for India at the World Cup.
Anwar Ali: A lot of Indian football fans are already nicknaming him the ‘future Sandesh Jhingan’ but he’d certainly love to be the only Anwar Ali. The Minerva Punjab defender was rock-solid at the World Cup, and was certainly India’s best outfield player in terms of protection and dedication for the team and cause.
Jitendra Singh: The East Bengal and Manchester United fan has been in the news, first, for visiting the Red-and-Golds and receiving an offer from the Kolkata giants, and second, for declaring his love for the Red Devils. Jitendra is dependable and is calm on the ball, but is not the best physical specimen to have in the backline.
Abhishek Halder: The Indian ‘Paul Pogba’, the lad from West Bengal is set to make it big. Calm and visionary on the ball with a presence in the centre of the pitch, Abhishek’s best position is at No. 8 with a defensive midfielder in tow. Abhishek can grow into one of the finest footballers India ever had with a little work on his speed and positioning.
Princeton Rebello: After FC Goa signed Princeton Rebello, Aaren D’Silva and Liston Colaco, the No. 10 became a household name in the beach state. Hugely talented in terms of breaking the opposition defence, Princeton also has an eye for stunners. A free-kick specialist, he’s certainly India’s bet in the long run.
Suresh Singh Wangjam: His physical presence is a delight to watch, and Suresh is easily one of India’s most powerful midfielders in any age-group. Wangjam is India’s best defensive midfielder when it comes to stopping the opposition’s flow, and will be one of the key performers under Luis Norton De Matos.
Amarjit Singh Kiyam (C): India’s captain at the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017, Amarjit Singh Kiyam, is one of the best close-passers and positional inter-changers in the country, inviting comparisons with Eugeneson Lyngdoh in some quarters. Known to understand and control the tempo of the game, Kiyam is the ever-dependable lad to walk the Tigers out.
Rahul KP: Keeping one of India’s finest talents Komal Thatal out of the starting XI is no mean feat, and meaner when you’ve played right-back in the last game. Rahul KP achieved that and with his hard work and determination to make it big, is certainly getting a long rope and sure he deserves one.
Ninthoinganba Meetei: The India No. 7 is one of the best ball controllers in the team. Diminutive and a little fragile, oppositions know Meetei is one of India’s best wingers in any age group on the ball. The burst of pace, oodles of close control and a lot of brevity makes Meetei one to watch out for.
Nongdamba Naorem: ‘Did you watch the No. 16 cut out two players and send them back to USA?’ A lot of people said this and they were talking about the prodigious Nongdamba Naorem. Soft-spoken and robust on the ball, Naorem’s best position is the left attacking forward in a 4-2-3-1. If used well, he can rip apart any defender on his day.
Jeakson Singh: India’s power box in the centre of the pitch, Jeakson Singh is probably the only high-intensity midfielder who can play a box to box role in a 4-3-3, if India walk in that way. Jeakson, Suresh and Abhishek can be part of this central three, if Matos opts for it. Amarjit could replace Suresh, depending on Matos’ ideas. We’re sure you’ve not forgotten his World Cup header.
Edmund Lalrindika: Had Edmund been born on or after 1st January 2000, he’d be leading India’s line at the World Cup. Talented, powerful, fast and with the ability to hit the ball well, Edmund is certainly India’s hope at the AFC U-19 qualifiers to convert the chances to numbers on boards. Lalrindika has proven it so far and now needs to take him game to the next level.
Noarem Roshan Singh: Versatile and exciting on the ball, Roshan’s best virtue is his ability to carry the ball. The cute-faced lad is a happy left-back, is a wily left-wing back, is good as a left-winger and is a more than capable player in other positions as well, proving his versatility. Never having a bad game, Roshan’s inclusion has proven that hard-work is never ignored.
Lalawmpuia: A typical No. 9 and something India lacks in abundance, Lalawmpuia is a dream in the box and when the team needs to press higher up the pitch. The youngster is also known for being at the right place at the right time, with a decent right foot and a good presence in the box.
Rahim Ali: India’s other striker at the World Cup Rahim Ali recently scored a brace in a friendly encounter in Qatar against Al Ghafara in a 3-1 victory, proving his critics wrong. Rahim has been bashed a lot for his poor first touch and ball control, but his dedication and never-say-die attitude is a thumbs-up. His lankiness and ability to pull defenders with him is a bonus for other forwards.
Luis Norton De Matos is Portuguese and his love for four at the back is not the best-kept secret. Going by the trend, a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1 will be the usually formulated line-up for the India U-19 side. Let’s take a position-wise look at both systems.
Talking about the more-favoured 4-2-3-1 first, the goalkeeper and the backline select itself. Dheeraj will be the custodian, with Boris and Stalin providing cover on the defensive wings. Anwar Ali and Sahil Panwar will be the first-choice centre-backs for Matos, with Deepak Tangri and Jitendra Singh vying for the same spots in the team.
Amarjit, Suresh, Jeakson and Abhishek will fight it out in the defensive midfield pair of two. At any point during the game, Abhishek or Jeakson will be part of the two, with their ability to move the ball forward. Suresh and Amarjit will be the defensive shields. Up top, Naorem and Meetei/Bhutia will be the obvious wide-forwards, with Princeton Rebello the best No. 10 at the team’s disposal at the moment.
Princeton at No. 10 with his set-piece ability is a positive contributor to the side
If Matos gives a chance to both Rahul and Naorem to operate together, the Manipuri lad will move in centrally, vacating the wide left role for Rahul. Up top, Edmund and Lalawpuia look to be the first choices. Edmund can also double up as a mobile second striker/No. 10, if Matos goes in with a forward-minded attacking approach.
Roshan Singh and Asish Rai are more than able back-ups for Boris and Stalin in the 4-2-3-1, with their defensive discipline and ability on the ball unquestioned.
Coming to the more rigid and varied 4-4-2, Matos has a lot of options, but a lot of hard decisions as well to make. With the goalkeeper and the backline continuing to start in the same way, Naorem Roshan Singh gets a look in at left-back, due to his ability to attack and put in good crosses. Stalin’s positional rigidity and love for security and assurance behind him is a small drawback here.
Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem: The Manipuri Saviour
On the wings, Rahul KP and Ninthoiganba Meetei’s work rates are unquestionable and their ability on the ball has had its audience during the World Cup. Up top, Rahim Ali gets a look in as the second striker to do the dirty work as Edmund or Lalawmpuia start up-front.
The most difficult decision, though, is the midfield. With two players operating centrally, it’s almost karmic to decide the right names for the job. Defensive astuteness, positional awareness and the ability to drive the ball forward is one of the key attributes the players need to have to operate in the role. After a look, the pair of Abhishek Halder – Suresh Singh Wangjam and Jeakson Singh – Princeton Rebello looks best on pair.
Abhishek Halder, when on song, is unstoppable
These pairs have the positional and defensive security of Suresh and Jeakson Singh, also having the creative ability of Abhishek and Princeton, operating a little behind their natural places. The box-to-box dynamism would be needed to be inculcated in these two.
Looking at the options at disposal, Matos’ expected XI (and the best one) will be a 4-2-3-1 line up. Dheeraj will don his regular duties, covered by Boris, Anwar, Sahil and Stalin/Roshan in the defensive positions. Abhishek and Suresh/Amarjit will make the defensive-midfield and Princeton can be expected to operate as the No. 10. Naorem and Meetei/Rahul can be expected to start as wingers, but Namgyal Bhutia will also be making a good case for himself on the right wing role. Up top, Lalawmpuia and Edmund will vie for the spot.
If things change, Abhishek and Princeton could be pushed in the defensive two, with Edmund taking the No. 10 role and Lalawmpuia taking the starting role.
Khel Now’s Expected XI for the AFC U-19 Qualifiers in Saudi Arabia
If India walk out and play in this system, the team will play to its full potential, and the Cubs will have a good shot at qualification. The matches are set to be played at the 6:35 PM IST and India will be expected to put in a good challenge against the likes of Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Yemen.