There are five uncapped players in India’s 21-man squad who could make their international bow in the upcoming international friendlies against Philippines and Nepal. Sportskeeda has a look at each of them.
The 25-year-old is incredibly still uncapped at international level despite having his first senior national call-up five years ago. Arindam used to be a regular member of the India squad during Bob Houghton’s tenure but never got a chance to feature in an official international match. This is the first time that the 2008-09 I-League goalkeeper of the year has been called up by Wim Koevermans as he was rewarded for his good start in this season’s I-League. Churchill Brothers might have started poorly but Arindam hasn’t done much wrong and even saved them from further embarrassment in some matches. However with Karanjit Singh and Subhashish Roychowdhury also in the squad, Arindam is unlikely to break his international duck this time also.
As discussed earlier, Khongjee’s inclusion this time is slightly puzzling as this campaign he hasn’t yet been able to reach the heights of last season when he was possibly Mohun Bagan’s best Indian player. Nonetheless Koevermans and his coaching staff deemed him to be worthy of a place in the senior national squad and it’s a complete turnaround for Khongjee as he couldn’t even get a game at East Bengal six years ago. The 25-year-old has represented India at under-19 and under-20 levels and now could be making his senior bow after peaking at Mohun Bagan under Moroccan coach Karim Bencherifa. With Raju Gaikwad and Arnab Mondal being the only two other recognised centre-backs, Khogjee should get some action in Siliguri and he is also capable of playing as a fullback.
At 29, Nicolau has been somewhat a late developer but it’s worth noting that the Salgaocar right back has been on the radar of Koevermans and his assistants ever since the Dutchman’s first assignment, the 2012 Nehru Cup. Nicolau was part of the 37-man Nehru Cup preparatory camp in July 2012 but couldn’t make the final squad. This season he has not only been the best right back in the Airtel I-League but could also be considered one of the most consistent Indian performers. His combination with Francis Fernandes and at times Karma Tsewang on the right flank has been a joy to watch and Koevermans will give special attention to that as Francis is also in the squad. Nicolau though will face stiff competition from Denzil Franco for a starting berth.
The newly-signed versatile Dempo player is the youngest member in the squad and has possibly been selected with an eye at the 2014 Asian Games where Koevermans will be in charge of the India under-23 team. Das has made only two I-League appearances so far but the India coach has kept an eye on him since last year’s under-22 Asian Cup qualifiers where he represented India under current Dempo coach Arthur Papas. Das is naturally a left back but can play in a wide midfield role as well and that versatility could make him a long-term replacement for Syed Rahim Nabi. But it’s still early days for the 20-year-old so even if doesn’t play in these two matches, being part of the squad will be a great learning experience.
The 24-year-old’s progress has been monitored by Koevermans and his coaching staff for around 18 months now after his impressive displays at the 2012 Federation Cup where he almost guided Sporting Clube to the semis. Included in the squad as a midfielder, Victorino is capable of operating on both flanks as he is comfortable with both feet and has the ability to go past players with his pace and trickery. But the former Salgaocar youngster can also play upfront, having scored twice in the I-League already. Victorino is rated very highly in Goa and it looks like finally he is realising his true potential. Victorino’s versatility could see him get some action in the two matches but he faces plenty of competition from several experienced names.