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2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers: Analysing Indian football team's squad

This time around, the Indian national team has a new look and feel, and a different football philosophy and making it to Qatar is not an impossible dream.

2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers: Analysing Indian football teams squad


Published: 4 Sep 2019 2:06 PM GMT

Some seven months back, in January, the Indian football team was playing Bahrain at the Sharjah Stadium in Dubai, UAE. It was the Blue Tigers’ final group stage match of the AFC Asian Cup, and the scenario was such that a positive result would have taken them to the knockout stages.

Expectations were high as well, especially after the brilliant show against Thailand and UAE in the first two group games. However, a 91st minute penalty — converted by Bahrain’s Jamal Rashid — saw India crash out of the tournament.

Cut to September, under new coach Igor Stimac, Sunil Chhetri and co. are all set to begin another important campaign, the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers.

This time around, the national team has a new look and feel, and a different football philosophy.

From what we have seen in the initial few outings under Stimac, it is evident that the new gaffer is trying a different approach. First off, the players are more keen to keep the ball rolling and build from the back. They are taking more risks in attack as well, trying to find forays in behind the defence. And most importantly, this remains the philosophy regardless of the in-game scenario.

To implement these changes, there have been tweaks in the squad as well. Stimac had called up as many as 13 new players for the camp. The likes of Sahal Abdul Samad, Brandon Fernandes, Narender Gahlot, Manvir Singh have impressed in these past few months.

Chhetri, Manvir and Balwant Singh, India’s striking options, are quite capable of finding the back of the net should chances come their way. The onus of creating these chances fall on Anirudh Thapa and Sahal, who are both technically adept to link plays in midfield.

On the flanks, one can rely on Udanta Singh to tear the opposition apart with his blistering pace. Stimac also has options in Ashique Kuruniyan, Lallianzuala Chhangte, who have both shown promise.

But without Amarjit Singh, who has been the most impressive player since the Croatian took over, and Pronay Halder, India might be a missing a trick or two in defensive midfield.

Stimac’s largest concerns will be at the back. The defence has a tendency of leaking goals in crucial moments. While Sandesh Jhingan is the mainstay in the backline, the likes of Pritam Kotal, Subhasish Bose, Rahul Bheke and Anas Edathodika have been largely inconsistent. On contrary, Gahlot’s performances in the run-up to the Oman match have been far more impressive. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, with his experience, should be the automatic choice in between the sticks.


A mere change in approach and philosophy does not guarantee success. But what it does do is make India more appealing to the global audience. More importantly, the team no longer looks like a one-trick pony.

One must remember that it is a transitional phase and it will take time for the coach to the find the right balance and for the players to adapt to the new style.

India take on Oman in their first match on Wednesday, 5th September, in Guwahati.

Here is India’s final 23-member squad for the match against Oman:

GOALKEEPERS: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Kamaljit Singh

DEFENDERS: Rahul Bheke, Pritam Kotal, Anas Edathodika, Sandesh Jhingan, Narender Gahlot, Adil Khan, Subhasish Bose, Mandar Rao Dessai

MIDFIELDERS: Nikhil Poojary, Udanta Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Vinit Rai, Sahal Abdul Samad, Rowllin Borges, Brandon Fernandes, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Ashique Kuruniyan

FORWARDS: Balwant Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh

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