It is indeed the dawn of a new era in Indian Football and it is being orchestrated by Arthur Papas and Wim Koevermans. India dished out a tremendous performance in AFC U-22 Qualifiers, shunning the long ball approach and adopting a possession based style. The same may be expected from the senior team in the Nehru Cup which kicks off on 23 rd August.
In the backdrop of the 37 member probable squad announced by newly appointed Wim Koevermans, which includes a lot of top I-League Performers who had been ignored by the previous coaches, TheHardTackle takes a look at the team to see who made the cut and who didn’t.
GOALKEEPERS: Subrata Pal, Subhasish Roychowdhury, Karanjeet Singh, Arindam Bhattacharya, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
One department where India seems assured is the goal-keeping department. Subrata Paul was the flag bearer of the national team in the AFC Cup till he got injured. Karanjeet Singh ensured that Subrata was not missed coming up with impressive showings in the SAFF Cup. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu lead the AFC U-22 team in Jeje’s absence and attracted a lot of admiration from John Burridge, a renowned ‘keeper and an instrumental figure in helping Al-Habsi get into Wigan. The East Bengal lad is a promising talent and is expected to give a tough fight to Subrata and Karanjeet for the top spot.
Arindam and Subhasish complete the two other spots in the probable list but it is largely expected that Subrata, Karanjeet and Sandhu would make the cut.
THT Verdict: Excellent
THT Man to Watch out for : Subrata Pal
DEFENDERS: Nirmal Chhetri, Denzil Franco, Nicholas Colaco, Gourmangi Singh, Gurwinder Singh, Rowilson Rodriguez, Raju Gaikwad, Khelemba Meitei, Shouvik Ghosh, Gurjinder Singh, Syed Rahim Nabi, Mohan Raj.
The back-four has been a constant worry for India as the team conceded a number of soft goals in the AFC Challenge cup. With ageing Sameer Naik and Mahesh Gawli out , the energetic youngsters will be gunning to make a strong impact. Gouramnagi Singh , Raju Gaikwad have been picked and will be the top contenders for the central defense pairing. They will get tough competition from Dempo stopper Rowilson Rodriguez and U-22 defender Shouvik Ghosh. Rowilson Rodriguez was part of the 2010 Asain games team and had impressed one and all but has been completely overlooked by Armando and Savio in the recent past.
There are a number of options on the flanks as with Mr. Versatile Syed Rahim Nabi and Gurjinder Singh retaining their spots. Nalappan Mohanraj is another option for the left wingback position. On the right, India will have Denzil Franco, one of the fastest full-backs in the country, and he will look to make it count. Nirmal Chhetri is the other option for the slot of right fullback. Nicholas Colaco, after an impressive season with Salgaocar, also gets an opportunity to prove himself.
Salgaocar’s Khelemba Meitei, East Bengal centre back Gurwinder Singh complete the list of defenders. Arnab Mondal is a surprise omission from the team while Anwar Ali has faced the axe for his insipid performances.
THT Verdict: Fair
THT Men to Watch out for : Raju Gaikwad and Rowilson Rodriguez
MIDFIELDERS: Mehtab Hossain, Adil khan, Rocus Lamare, Milan Singh, Baldeep Singh, Denson Devdas, Lalrindika Ralte, Jewel Raja, Francis Fernandes, Alwyn George, Anthony Pereira, Gilbert Oliviera, Sanju Pradhan, Clifford Miranda, Joaquim Abranches.
The midfield bears a new and refreshing look with top U-22 performers Lalrindika Ralte, Alwyn George and Milan Singh finding places. While Ralte and Alwyn excelled at the attacking side of things, Milan was a pillar of strength in center of the park. Such was Alwyn’s impact that he can be expected to walk into the final 23 member team and even the starting eleven. India has struggled to find an attacking midfielder capable of playing in the hole between midfield and strikers and Alwyn fits into that role perfectly.
East Bengal duo of Mehtab Hossain and Sanju Pradhan are also in the probable squad after not being picked by Savio. Mehtab, currently training in Scotland is capable of playing as a deep-lying playmaker while Sanju is touted as one of the best young talents in India at the moment. Highly rated Salgaocar midfield trio of Rocus, Francis and Gilbert Oliviera have deservedly made the cut after a string of excellent performances. Rocus is likely to start as the holding midfielder after excelling in that role in AFC Challenge Cup as well as SAFF cup. Jewel Raja and Adil Khan also retain their places as Koevermans looks to build a team for future
Dempo stars Clifford Miranda and Anthony Pereira find their names on the list but will have to improve their performances to beat the youngsters to the final list. Joaquim Abranches was one of the better performers in the AFC Challenge Cup and hence retains his spot. A lot is expected from the Dempo youngster this time around. Completing the roaster are Denson Devdas and Baldeep Singh. Missing from the list are Lester Fernandez and Lalkamal Bhowmik, two star performers in I-League this season. They may miss out this time but are likely to get more opportunities in future.
THT Verdict: Very Good
THT Men to Watch out for : Ralte, Alwyn
FORWARDS: Robin Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Manandeep Singh, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Sushil Singh.
India U-22 Strikers Manandeep and Jeje have shown enough promise in the AFC U-22 and find their name on the senior list as well. A lot is now expected from Sunil Chhetri who, despite his recent slump in form, managed to sign a deal with Sporting Lisbon Reserve team. This move is expected to boast his morale. It looks increasingly likely that if India decide to go with two strikers up-front then Jeje and Sunil duo will be the first choice. However, the availability of Sunil does look a little doubtful given that he might be playing in the Portugal at that time.
Manandeep with his hustle-bustle style and high-work rate is a good option as well and his 7 goals in I-League do justice to his abilities. Striker Robin Singh has been called up to the camp after a good run of form with East Bengal. His height is indeed an asset to the team. Sushil Kumar is the other striker in the probable team. The surprise omission is that of C.S. Sabeeth who, despite being the only Indian to score a hat-trick this season and finishing as the joint top-scorer, has been unceremoniously dropped.
THT Verdict: Good
THT Men to Watch out For: Jeje, Chhetri
The Big Picture
This is what Head Coach Wim Koevermans said after the squad was announced
I’m happy to find players for the start of the preparation of the Nehru Cup and I’m looking forward to work with them and start developing the team together along with the support staff.In Muscat the U-22 boys did put up a good show. I felt it best to call some of them for the Camp to see how they cope up with the Senior Team players. It’s a different level after all
This is indeed a team which has included the finest of talents in India. Previous coaches including Bob Houghton and Savio Medeira have often been biased against some players but Koevermans has taken a correct first step, choosing the best possible team, almost. Expectations from this team are sky high after the performances of U-22 boys and TheHardTackle hopes that Koevermans and his boys will pass the test with flying colors