No Sunil Chhetri, Igor Stimac banks on new faces in Dubai friendlies

After a year-long gap, the Indian football team will take on Oman and UAE in international friendlies in Dubai.

By Naveen Peter

Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac will look up to the youngsters in the squad when they take on Oman and UAE in two friendly matches later this month.

The Indian team will be returning to action after a year-long gap due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While their match against Oman is scheduled for March 25, the UAE tie will be played on March 29. India will be without captain Sunil Chhetri, battling coronavirus.

“It is such a relief that we are all assembling together and gearing up for international action,” Igor Stimac said before leaving for Dubai for a preparatory camp.

“There are a lot of new faces in the squad and it is time for hard work for all of them – in fact, for all in the camp. We need to check how they respond and how bright is our future with them.”

The Indian football team has a number of fresh faces who have been rewarded for their impressive performances in the Indian Super League (ISL) that concluded on Saturday.

Few of the notable names included are Ishan Pandita, Hitesh Sharma, Yasir Mohammad, Suresh Singh, Akash Mishra and Mashoor Shereef.

Chhetri, who tested positive for COVID-19 a few days back, is the stand-out absentee from the Indian football squad. Meanwhile, Brandon Fernandes, Rahul Bheke, Sahal Abdul Samad and Asish Rai too miss out due to injuries.

The upcoming matches will be crucial for the Indian football team as they resume their preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in June. The qualifiers are set to be held in Qatar, a centralised venue as announced by the AFC.

Indian football squad for friendly matches

Goalkeeper: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Subhasish Roy Chowdhury, Dheeraj Singh

Defenders: Ashutosh Mehta, Akash Mishra, Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Chinglensana Singh, Adil Khan, Mandar Rao Dessai, Mashoor Shereef

Midfielders: Rowllin Borges, Lalengmawia, Jeakson Singh, Raynier Fernandes, Anirudh Thapa, Bipin Singh, Yasir Mohammad, Suresh Singh, Halicharan Narzary, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Ashique Kuruniyan

Forwards: Manvir Singh, Ishan Pandita, Hitesh Sharma, Liston Colaco