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AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers: 5 Players who deserved to be called up for Indian national team camp

Gursimrat Singh Gill
Gursimrat Singh Gill
Abhishek Arora

The 38-member probable squad for the AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers was released a little over a week back. Sarthak Golui, Anirudh Thapa, Ashique Kuruniyan, and Vinit Rai were called up to the national camp. These 4 were also part of the Blue Tigers during the recent AFC Asian Cup in UAE.

Goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh, Mohammad Nawaz, Anwar Ali and Prabhsukhan Gill are also amongst the popular players to be shortlisted. Meanwhile, Derrick Pereira has been roped in by the AIFF as the head coach of the U-23 side and will preside over the national camp which is slated to begin on March 2.

India are placed in Group F of the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers alongside Tajikistan, hosts Uzbekistan, and arch-rivals Pakistan. Pereira's troops will square off against Tajikistan in their first encounter on 22 March.

Besides Thailand, who automatically qualify as hosts, 15 other teams will make qualify for the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship on the basis their results in the qualifying event.

A big squad has been called up for the national camp but there are still some deserving players who failed to make the cut. In this article, we do an analysis of the 5 players who should have been called up for the Indian national team camp.

Before we begin, we would like to name the honourable mentions in this Top 5 list as Thoiba Singh of Minerva Punjab and Vikram Pratap Singh.


Also see : Fantasy Premier League , Fantasy Premier League Tips, EPL Transfer News


#1 Lalthathanga Khawlhring (NorthEast United)

Lalthathanga Khawlhring in action for NorthEast United
Lalthathanga Khawlhring in action for NorthEast United

Lalthathanga Khawlhring is a fine young talent. The 20-year-old hails from Mizoram and began his career with Bethlehem Vengthlang. He was honoured as the Best Midfielder in the Mizoram Premier League for the year 2015-16 season.

The midfielder soon moved to DSK Shivajians' youth academy. He made his debut for the senior side on 8 January 2017 in an I-League match against Mumbai Football Club.

NorthEast United FC roped in the promising youngster in a three-year deal. Lalthathanga wast sent on loan to play for Aizawl FC for the 2017-18 season.

After an impressive display on loan last season, NorthEast United have shown faith in Khawlhring during the ongoing edition of ISL. The midfielder has got an impressive 1079 minutes of playing time in the 17 matches which The Highlanders have played thus far.

Khawlhring has an assist to his name besides having a passing accuracy of 71.7%. The talented player averages 27.65 passes per game and is also seen helping out his defence. He has impressed gaffer Eelco Schattorie with his menacing runs on the right flank and ability to pull the strings in the midfield as well as whipping in crosses.

The versatility of the player makes him a promising prospect and his performances in the ongoing ISL should have earned him a call up to the national camp for AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers.

#2 Shubham Sarangi (Delhi Dynamos)

Shubham
Shubham

Sarangi has previously represented the Delhi team at the U-14 National Championships. He was also a part of India U-17s preparatory camp prior to the U-17 World Cup. The youngster represented the junior team of Minerva Punjab F.C. in the 2015–16 I-League U18 and impressed scouts as he found the back of the net 8 times.

After acquiring the youngster, Delhi Dynamos had sent him to the Aspire Academy in Qatar to train for a few months in early 2018. Now, Shubham Sarangi has been given quite a few opportunities by Josep Gombau in the ongoing ISL. The Dynamos midfielder has got 342 minutes of playing time in 8 matches.

The 18-year-old was also given a start in the recent match against the then table toppers Bengaluru FC on 17 February. He was taken off at half time but tried his best to make an impact. Delhi Dynamos eventually turned the tables and won the game 3-2 after being 1-2 down at one point.

Sarangi averages 15.25 passes per game and has also helped out in the defence as he made 17 tackles and 7 blocks in the 8 matches he played.

The Vishakhapatnam-born player is naturally aggressive and the only downside of his game is that he can commit cheap fouls occasionally. Had he been called up for the AFC U-23 Championship, it would have been a huge boost of confidence for him.

#3 Phranki Buam (Shillong Lajong)

Phrangki Baum in action for Shillong
Phrangki Baum in action for Shillong

Phrangki Buam of Shillong Lajong has performed extremely well for the Northeast-based club. Even though Lajong's performance as a team has been abysmal and they are currently rock bottom in the I-League table, the left winger has performed well.

The 18-year-old has formerly represented Royal Wahingdoh Football Club.

The young midfielder has started in 14 games while he was used as a substitute in 3 games for Lajong. The youngster has established himself as a key part of The Red Dragons.

The number 14 has scored 4 goals so far - 1 against Minerva Punjab (on 23rd November 2018); 1 against Gokulam Kerala (on 11th November 2018); 1 against NEROCA FC (on 2nd December 2018); 1 against NEROCA FC (on 4th January 2019).

His 4 goals make him the joint 4th highest Indian goalscorers in the I-League after Jobby Justin, Laldanmawia Ralte, and Samuel Kynshi.

Overall, Phrangki has played 1322 minutes for Shillong in the I-League and was a deserving player to be called up for the AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers' camp.

#4 Prasanth Karuthadathkuni (Kerala Blasters)

Prasanth Karuthadathkuni (left) during one of Blasters' training sessions
Prasanth Karuthadathkuni (left) during one of Blasters' training sessions

The Kerala-born footballer Prasanth K actually began his career as a runner. However, he began playing football early on in 2008 when suggested by his brother. Prasanth soon found a place in the Kerala U-14 team in 2010.

The youngster was also one of the few talents to be selected to play for the AIFF Regional Academy. The 21-year-old had a brief stint with the DSK Shivajians academy as well.

The Kerala Blasters roped in the talented winger in 2016. He was sent to play for I-League club Chennai City FC on loan. After impressive performances, the Blasters retained Prasanth ahead of the 2017-18 season. The number 11 got an overall game time of 518 minutes in 10 matches during the 2017-18 ISL season.

Prasanth has also got 515 minutes of game time in 10 of the matches this season. A talented player overall who could have earned a call up to the U-23 preparatory camp.

#5 Gursimrat Singh Gill (Bengaluru FC)

Gursimrat Singh Gill during one of Bengaluru's training sessions
Gursimrat Singh Gill during one of Bengaluru's training sessions

Gursimrat Singh Gill is an extremely promising centre-back. The 22-year-old hails from a modest village in Punjab - Sarabha. He spent 5 years (from 2007 to 2012) with the Chandigarh Football Academy. Gill also won the U-14 Subroto Cup with them.

Soon the youngster joined the regional academy of AIFF in Mumbai. He was also amongst a select few who were sent to the Nike All Asia Camp in Doha in 2013. The defender was an integral part of the AIFF Elite Academy when they lifted the 2014–15 I-League U19 trophy in 2015.

Gill put pen to paper for Bengaluru FC on 23 August 2016 - it was also his first professional contract. After getting negligible game time with the Karnataka-based club, the youngster made a move to NorthEast United FC for the 2017-18 season. The 22-year-old was again roped in by The Blues ahead of the 2018-19 season.

Considering the fact that the centre back has given impressive performances for the India national Under-20 football team in the past at competitions such as SAFF U-19 Championship, his omission from the preparatory camp for AFC U-23 Championship does come as a surprise.

Also Read: How India should line-up at the 2020 AFC U-23 Championships Qualifiers


As a part of the preparation, the Indian U-23 team are also slated to lock horns with Qatar U-23s on March 11 in a practice match.

Edited by Anirban Banerjee

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