India’s FIFA Worldcup U17 Stars – Where are they now?

India’s FIFA Worldcup U17 Stars – Where are they now?

The FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 that India hosted and the preparations associated with that tournament have been instrumental in unearthing some of the best prospects that Indian Football has seen in a long time. As part of the preparations for the first World Cup that India hosted and participated in, the AIFF left no stones unturned and provided the team with a lot of exposure trips and competitive matches, which has helped in moulding a group of immensely talented players.
However, 3 years later, not all of those players have been able to fully realise their initial potential while few others- who were part of the camps at different times but eventually missed out on the opportunity of being a part of the final 21 squad at the World Cup- have proven their worth and have had strong performances in the last ISL and the I-League season.
In this 4-part series, we take a look at how the players from the 2000-born & 2001-born batches have performed in the last season and make a position-wise comparison of the players using a bit of stats and data. In this part, we will be looking at how much playing time these players have got, and then we will be looking at the Goalkeepers.

Game-time

By the start of the 2019/20 season, a major chunk of the 21-man squad had landed lucrative contracts with different ISL teams. However, at a crucial period when they have to get maximum playing time under their belt, most of them struggled for game-time and were often limited to bit-part roles for their side.
Name
Position
Team
League
Appearances (Starts)
Minutes Played
Dheeraj Moirangthem GK ATK ISL 1 (1) 90
Boris Thangjam RB ATK ISL 0 (0) 0
Jitendra Singh CB/CM Jamshedpur FC ISL 8 (5) 438
Anwar Ali1 CB Mumbai City FC ISL 0 (0) 0
Sanjeev Stalin2 LB CD Aves (Portugal) Liga NOS NA NA
Suresh Wangjam CM Bengaluru FC ISL 14 (9) 847
Ninthoinganba Meetei LW/RW Northeast United FC ISL 11 (6) 526
Amarjit Kiyam CM Jamshedpur FC ISL 8 (6) 544
Aniket Jadhav CF/RW Jamshedpur FC ISL 13 (4) 456
Abhijit Sarkar CAM East Bengal (on loan from Chennaiyin FC) I-League 6 (1) 153
Komal Thatal LW ATK ISL 1 (0) 6
Hendry Antonay RB Indian Arrows I-League 12 (9) 859
Lalengmawia CM Northeast United FC ISL 10 (10) 900
Rahim Ali CF Chennaiyin FC ISL 6 (2) 181
Jeakson Thounaojam CM Kerala Blasters FC ISL 13 (9) 886
Nongdamba Naorem LW Mohun Bagan (on loan from KBFC) I-League 16 (16) 1280
Rahul Praveen RW Kerala Blasters FC ISL 8 (3) 383
Namit Deshpande3 CB NA NA
Mohammad Shahjahan MF Jamshedpur FC Reserves 2nd Div I-League 2 (0) 63
Prabhsukhan Gill GK Bengaluru FC ISL 1 (1) 90
Sunny Dhaliwal3 GK NA NA

Notes:

  • Sanjeev Stalin joined the Portuguese top division side CD Aves in February 2020. However, he has not featured for their 1st team yet and there aren’t any details available on how many games he has played for the reserves or their U23 side.
  • Anwar Ali was expected to feature heavily for Mumbai City FC last season; however, an unfortunate heart condition ruled him out for the season.
  • There is not much to update on Namit Deshpande & Sunny Dhaliwal and the teams they are currently playing for
When we consider the playing time of these 21 players (barring Anwar, Sanjeev, Namit, Sunny & Shahjahan, who featured only in 2 games in the second division), the average playing time & appearances in the I-League & the ISL are as follows-

Although the ISL is considered a bit more superior in terms of quality of football, and while injuries did affect many of the ISL players on this list, it is fair to say the players who played the I-League were able to give a better account of themselves with more playing time.
At the same time, it is interesting to note that, some other players who failed to make the final squad back in 2017 were instrumental to their teams last season. Here is the list on who had played for the India U16 & U17 teams back in 2016-17 and featured in at least 10 matches for their I-League & ISL sides last season-
Name
Position
Team
League
Appearances (Starts)
Minutes Played
Mohammad Nawaz GK FC Goa ISL 20 (20) 1800
Shubham Sarangi RB Odisha FC ISL 17 (17) 1407
Mohamad Rakip RB Kerala Blasters FC ISL 15 (15) 1290
Sumit Rathi CB/ LB ATK ISL 14 (13) 1169
Narender Gahlot CB/ LB Jamshedpur FC ISL 11 (9) 895
Ajin Tom RB Indian Arrows I-League 10 (9) 736

 

As mentioned earlier, part-1 will cover the men between the sticks as we dive deeper into a position-wise analysis.

Goalkeepers

Amongst the goalkeepers in the category, there was only one clear winner when it came to performances and that is Mohammad Nawaz. The Manipuri shot-stopper, who had to give way to the tall Sunny Dhaliwal in the U17 World Cup Squad, featured in all of FC Goa’s games and averaged 2.5 saves/ game. Although his saves to goals conceded rate of 63% is not the best, Nawaz’s key quality has been his ability with the feet; his passing accuracy of 88% being the best for keepers in the league.
His only disadvantage seems to be his height, which has become an issue at times from crosses and corners. Also, a look at the 29 goals he has conceded this season, reveals that a high proportion of them were to the bottom corner, an area of the goal where the shorter keepers often struggle to reach.

                                            Shot’s Faced by Nawaz; 13 goals in the bottom corner (Credits: InStat)

As Dheeraj & Gill had to play second choice to Arindam Bhattacharya and Gurpreet Sandhu respectively, they never got to prove their worth with both conceding goals with 2 of the 4 shots on target they faced.
Someone who got a better chance to impress was Samik Mitra, who started a total of 7 games for the Indian Arrows. The lanky keeper impressed initially with his shot-stopping but lost his spot to Biaka Jongte after a string of losses. Given the high volume of shots that Arrows conceded, he was often kept busy in the games he played. He was, however, not comfortable with his feet and was rarely able to contribute to the buildup, which paved the way for Biaka Jongte to stake a claim for the position.

The fact that Nawaz despite his height disadvantage has been pushing for a Senior National Team call-up, while the highly-rated Dheeraj and Gill have been slowly side-lined, once again highlights the importance of playing time for these budding players. With Gurpreet and Arindam likely to be around for a while, you’d think Gill and Dhreeaj might have to look for opportunities elsewhere, or they risk finding themselves pushed to the wayside in the years to come by.
That concludes part-1 of this series and do check back with us, as we continue to expand to other positions on the field and look at how some of the prodigious young talents in the country have progressed over the past 3 years.

Analysis by our Football Expert Analyst – Mishal Thanveer 

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