Disclaimer- This team is based on current situation only. These are only the opinions of the author, and not of IFTWC as a page.
Inspite of being the second most populated country in the world, India has always failed to qualify for the biggest sports event in the world, FIFA World Cup. Some say that football in India is not as popular as cricket, but anyone who has a basic knowledge about football knows the numbers are not even close when compared on an international level.
In 1950, India did qualify for the tournament which was being hosted in Brazil by default because of the withdrawal of all their opponents during qualifying round from the pre-tournament qualifiers. But later India themselves withdrew from the tournament. Many historians and players of that particular year claimed that the withdrawal was because of the rule banning players from playing barefoot which was imposed by FIFA. After letting that golden opportunity go, India has never even been close to qualifying for the planet’s ultimate football tournament.
But now, maybe success is on its way after so much of hard work and determination. After the official statement made by FIFA which reveals the plan to expand the tournament from 32 teams to 48, many Indian football fans and also the federation are aiming to qualify for the 2026 FIFA World Cup which will be jointly hosted by the USA, Mexico and their neighboring country Canada. If everything goes according to the plan of the AIFF and the head coach, then 2026 is going to be the year of joy for all the Indian football fans and they will be up for an absolute carnival.
But reality would hit hard to all the Indian football fans when they don’t see their idols like Sunil Chhetri, Sandesh Jhingan, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in that dream-fulfilling team. It must be very hard for any football fan to digest that, but it gets very difficult for any player to play at the highest level after a certain age. But there are other young players now who are capable enough to take the team to the greatest heights.
Selecting just eleven players from a country like India, that has innumerable talents, is always difficult. But as always the most talented and hardworking players deserve to be in the team from whom expectations will be very high.
If one had to pick the goalkeeper in this team, it has got to be Mohammad Nawaz. Nawaz is a Manipur-born goalkeeper who has enticed many football fans from all over the country with his fearless goalkeeping skills. Nawaz is currently playing for FC Goa in the Indian Super League and has also made 10 appearances for India under 17 team. He surely has everything that a goalkeeper needs to play at the highest level and it won’t be a surprise if he makes it to the playing 11.
RIGHT BACK- Probably, it’s Ashish Rai who would cement his spot in the right-back position for the national team by then. Rai is a 21-year defender who’s currently playing for Hyderabad FC in the Indian Super League. Rai offers lightning pace and quick feet which almost makes him an extra forward. He can also put a solid defending performance, with his marauding runs forward he can be a big threat for the opposition team.
CENTER BACK- Everyone’s two picks for the center back position has got to be none other than Sumit Rathi and Narendar Gahlot. Sumit Rathi has impressed everyone with his great defending for ATK this season and that’s the reason he was rewarded with the emerging player of the season for ISL 2019-20. If there is any young all-rounde defender playing for the country right now, then it’s Narendar Gahlot. He has made his debut for the senior national team in the recent Intercontinental Cup and he also managed to score a very important goal against Syria. Surely, both of them will have a great partnership in that defensive position and will make it very tough for the opposition team to score any goal.
LEFT BACK- The back-line won’t be complete without a consistent performer like Nishu Kumar. Nishu has always been regarded as one of the most underrated player and also one of the most consistent player for his club. He can standout with his great defensive and attacking show as well. It won’t be a surprise for any football fan if they see Nishu Kumar in that dream team.
Undoubtedly, the central defensive midfield spot has got to be cemented by Amarjit Singh Kiyam. The Manipur born player has captained India under 17 team which participated in the Under-17 FIFA World Cup. The young lad also made his debut for the senior national team in the King’s Cup in Thailand and is considered as one of the most hardworking and ruthless midfielders in the country right now.
This team will surely look a very ordinary side without the two young wizards of Indian football, the magician Sahal Abdul Samad and Anirudh Thapa. Sahal is known for his beautiful skills and his ability to take on 2-3 defenders beautifully and Thapa is known for his energy and hard work. Thapa looks like a future leader and has impressed almost every coach he has played under. Both the players have impressed every single Indian football fan with their skills and because of the energy that these two guy’s bring to the table, they are surely going to make it to the playing 11.
Most probably, the three players who will be forming a trio in this squad are Lallianzula Chhangte, Vikram Pratap Singh, and Jerry Mahwihmingthanga. These three players are regarded as one of the most talented and consistent players in the country right now. While Chhangte and Jerry are known for their pace and quality of giving great balls inside the box, Vikram is known for his finishing power and leadership quality at such a young age. All of them have impressed every Indian football with their consistent performances and it is very likely that these three would carry the hopes of everyone on their shoulders.
There were so many players who were very close to making it to this team but if ultimately only 11 start a match. Players like Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem, Anwar Ali, Vinit Rai, Komal Thatal, Rahul K.P, Rohit Danu, Rahim Ali, Sridarth Nongmeikapam, Givson Singh, Jeakson Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan, Udanta Singh and Farukh Choudhary are brilliant players, and it would be no surprise to see them in this squad at FIFA World Cup 2026, which we hopefully qualify for.