Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac named 10 new players in his 35-member list of probables for the national side’s international friendlies against Oman and the UAE. The back-to-back friendlies, Indian team’s first outing since the Covid-19 lockdowns disrupted the footballing calendar will be in Dubai on March 25 and 29.
The final list of 28 players will be announced after the Indian Super League (ISL) final on March 13. The players will travel to Dubai for a preparatory camp which begins on March 15.
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"We have kept 35 players in the list as a cushion in case any player picks up an injury during the ISL playoffs," Stimac was quoted in an All India Football Federation (AIFF) press release. He expressed excitement in the team convening after a very long break.
"It's been a difficult year for all of us and finally, we are all getting together. It will be great to meet some new young guns and to check how bright our future is with them,” said Stimac.
As expected, six players from Hyderabad FC have been named in the list. Forwards Halicharan Narzary and Liston Colaco; midfielders Hitesh Sharma, Mohammad Yasir; and defenders Chinglensana Singh and Akash Mishra have all made the cut. Hyderabad has the most representatives in the probables list — a testament of how the club had blooded in Indian players as regulars in the playing XI.
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Narzary has earlier been a regular for the national side while Chinglensana will be making a comeback to the set-up if he gets named in the final squad. He had a strong season for Hyderabad. Meanwhile, Hitesh, who played in the SAFF Championship in 2019, will be part of the senior squad for the first time. Colaco, Mishra and Yasir’s impressive performance in the ISL have earned them their maiden national team call-up.
Five players from Mumbai City FC, the ISL shield winners, made it to the list. Amrinder Singh, Bipin Singh, Mandar Rao Dessai, Rowllin Borges and Raynier Fernandes have been part of Stimac’s plans earlier as well. Bengaluru FC (Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh, Suresh Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan) also have five representatives.
Stimac understands that the players, courtesy the ISL, are match fit. But he wanted to take the practice matches to clearly understand how things stand as a squad.
"It's been a while since we last played and this is a great opportunity to check where we stand at the moment," the coach said.
"I know the season was a tough one and players might be overloaded. But, we have enough time to refresh their legs and brains. However, many of them will have a break of two weeks without any organised training sessions prior to joining the camp. Hopefully, they will execute their individual working plans," he added.
India last played at the international arena -- a pair of FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Afghanistan (in Tajikistan) and Oman (in Muscat) -- in November 2019.
India have won three points from the five matches played so far in the qualifiers, with two home games -- against Asian champions Qatar and Afghanistan -- and an away tie against Bangladesh yet to be played.
The international friendlies are part of India's preparations for the World Cup qualifiers and the 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers to be played in June. India are out of reckoning for a 2022 World Cup berth but are still in contention for qualification in the 2023 Asian Cup.
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Dheeraj Singh, Vishal Kaith.
Defenders: Seriton Fernandes, Ashutosh Mehta, Akash Mishra, Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Chinglensana Singh, Sarthak Golui, Adil Khan, Mandar Rao Dessai, Prabir Das, Mashoor Shereef.
Midfielders: Udanta Singh, Rowllin Borges, Lalengmawia, Jeakson Singh, Raynier Fernandes, Anirudh Thapa, Bipin Singh, Yasir Mohammad, Suresh Singh, Liston Colaco, Halicharan Narzary, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Ashique Kuruniyan, Rahul KP, Hitesh Sharma, Farukh Choudhary.
Forwards: Manvir Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Ishan Pandita.
(With inputs from PTI)
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