5 Players who could make their Indian national team debut in the 2023 Intercontinental Cup
After top-quality domestic football in the 2022-23 Indian Super League season, it’s time to tune up to the international one. The Indian National Football team gave a handful of stellar performances in the last few months as they have lost only once in their last five fixtures.
The Head coach of the Indian national football team, Igor Stimac announced a list of 41 players for the national camp for the Hero Intercontinental Cup that will take place in Bhubaneswar in June. India will be facing Lebanon, Vanuatu, and Mongolia in the tournament which will be played full from 9th to 18th June.
The 41-men list includes big names such as Sunil Chettri and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu while it also includes new names such as Vikram Pratap Singh and Phurba Lachenpa and a few of the new inclusions can make their debut for the Blue Tigers.
Hence, without further ado, let’s take a look at the 5 players who could make their Indian national team debut in the Intercontinental Cup.
#5 Sivasakthi Narayanan
Sivasakthi Narayanan caught major eyeballs in the Durand Cup where he smashed a handful of goals and helped Simon Grayson’s side win the cup and keep the morale high ahead of the ISL season.
In the 2022-23 ISL season, Sivasakthi formed a dangerous partnership with Roy Krishna scoring 6 goals and providing three assists in 1100 minutes of game time. The striker’s hot form coincided with the Blues winning eight matches on the trot to make it to the playoffs ahead of teams like Goa and Chennaiyin.
In the 2023 Super Cup semi-final, the 21-year old forward came on as a substitute against Jamshedpur and helped fellow substitute Jayesh Rane get on the scoresheet making sure Bengaluru get command of the match after an unimpressive first half.
Sivasakthi attains the ability to shift mid-game from attack to defense and also has a great vision at such a young age. Excluding Sunil Chettri, the other attacking options for the Indian team are Manvir Singh, Rahim Ali, and Ishan Pandita. If Stimac looks forward to experimentation on the field, then Sivasakthi Narayanan can surely get a chance.
#4 Phurba Lachenpa
Phurba Lachenpa was in stellar form for Mumbai City in the 2022-23 ISL season as he kept seven clean sheets in 22 fixtures. The 25-year-old goalkeeper played a major role in the Islanders’ premiership triumph over the likes of Hyderabad and ATK Mohun Bagan who were looking to close the gap at the top of the table.
The Sikkimese goalkeeper joined Des Buckingham’s Mumbai City from Shillong Lajong in 2021. Following Amrinder Singh’s departure, he has cemented his name as the first-choice goalkeeper for the Islanders ahead of new signing Mohammad Nawaz.
In the Super Cup, Mumbai City got eliminated in the group stage but Lachenpa’s effort between the sticks was still decent. He has been a part of the Indian team for a number of matches, but he never got the chance to show his skills on the biggest stage.
#3 Asish Rai
Another Sikkimese on the list, Asish Rai is among the most agile full-backs in Indian football. His vision and astounding ability to give crosses always leave the spectators stunned.
The full-back won the 2021-22 ISL trophy with Hyderabad as the Nizams defeated Kerela Blasters in the final. After making his AFC Cup bow with ATK Mohun Bagan, Rai lifted the trophy for the second consecutive season as Juan Ferrando’s Mariners came out on top against Bengaluru in the 2022-23 ISL final.
The major reason behind him not making his debut for the National team is that India has plenty of decent full-backs. The likes of Rahul Bheke and Pritam Kotal make it very difficult for a new right-back to get into the national team squad with the young Naorem Roshan Singh also one of the top candidates to play in the position.
#2 Vikram Pratap Singh
Vikram Pratap Singh has also been named in the 41-player list released by head coach Stimac. The Chandigarh-born forward joined Mumbai City in the 2020-21 season from Indian Arrows.
Since then, he has been doing a decent job for Des Buckingham’s side in whatever time he gets on the pitch as forwards like Lallianzuala Chhangte, Bipin Singh, and Jorge Pereyra Diaz get most of the minutes for the Islanders.
Playing primarily as a right-winger, Vikram’s raw pace, composure, and ability to beat defenders are surely the prime reasons for him getting a chance to showcase his skills in the national camp.
Vikram Pratap Singh has the potential to become the next big thing in Indian football, though he’ll be only able to reach the peak if he gets nurtured properly and Stimac gives him the chance to thrive in the national team.
#1 Nandhakumar Sekar
Following his stellar performance in the 2023 edition of the Super Cup, Nandhakumar Sekar’s inclusion in the pre-tournament camp for the Intercontinental Cup didn’t come as a surprise.
After scoring 6 goals and providing a solitary assist in the 2022-23 ISL campaign, the 27-year-old burst into life playing a major role in Odisha’s title triumph against favorites Bengaluru in the Super Cup.
Nandhakumar scored four goals in the title-winning campaign and can present a serious threat to the opposition if he plays in the midfield too and can switch from attack to defense as required. Stimac should look forward to pairing him with skipper Chettri and Manvir in the attack to add ability, vision, and experience in the frontline.