Fantasy XI: Which players from the 2004 Kochi International would make present Indian line-up?

With International football returning to Kochi after almost 9 years, comes up with a fantasy XI, consisting of players from then and the present squad...

It will be almost 9 years since India last played an International game in Kochi. The Indian fans will not re-call that game too fondly, as India were walloped 5-1 by Oman in a 2006 World Cup qualifier.

Since then, the Blue Tigers have played in various locations across the country, but never returned to Kochi.

But all of it is set to change on 6th February, as Wim Koevermans’ side takes on Palestine in an International friendly at Kochi.

A lot has changed since, then. Including India’s FIFA ranking, which was at 132, an amazing 34 places better off, when compared to our present situation. Talk of progress!

With a myriad of alterations in the playing staff as well, it made ponder over what would India’s starting eleven look like, if the players who took part in that game at Kochi, were available for selection, along-with the ones who are expected to play a part on 6th February.

Here is the starting XI from the game versus Oman - 1-Sangram Mukherjee; 2-Muttath Suresh, 4-Debjit Ghosh, 17-Deepak Kumar Mandal , 14-Mahesh Gawli; 8-Potsangbam Renedy Singh, 7-James Singh 10-Alvito D’Cunha, 5-Climax Lawrence; 15-Bhaichung Bhutia [C], 9-Abhishek Yadav


Subrata Paul -  A very tricky decision, considering that Sangram Mukherjee has displaced the former Pune FC custodian from his starting berth at Prayag United. While Mukherjee is enjoying a fine renaissance of sorts this season, there is no denying though, that Subrata has been India’s finest goalkeeper in the last few years, and edges it due to his consistency in national colours.

Defenders -

Deepak Mandal – While he often played in central defense back then, for the convenience of this side, we select Mandal at right-back, where he now is seen playing more often. A solid defender with great energy levels, he would definitely be an up-grade on Denzil Franco and Nirmal Chettri. If he continues in his present vein of form, he might yet force his way back into national reckoning.

Syed Rahim Nabi – There is absolutely no doubt that Nabi has been one in phenomenal form for club and country over the past few years.  His selection at left-back then, comes as no big surprise. Alert at the back and capable of some polished build-up play at the other end, the Mohun Bagan player would be an asset to this team.

Mahesh Gawli – Having recently retired from International duty, he continues to exude excellent calmness and positional awareness for his club Dempo SC. Apart from these qualities, his experience would be invaluable to the current set-up.

Muttath Suresh – The former East Bengal captain had a glorious career and was one hard player to get past. Good in the air and strong in the tackle, he would be an able partner for Gawli.

Midfielders -

Mehtab Hussain – It is only under Wim Koevermans that the East Bengal captain has managed to cement his place in the national team. However in the Nehru Cup, he showed how invaluable he was to the National team. A tough tackling player who effectively screens the defense, Mehtab is an old-school defensive midfielder, who keeps it simple, when in possession.

Climax Lawrence – In his pomp back then, Climax easily walks into this side, as its playmaker. Gifted on the ball like few midfielders in the country, the Dempo player could pick a pass from anywhere on the pitch. Would form a mean partnership with Mehtab, who would allow him to focus on building attacking moves.

Renedy Singh – Technically, easily up there with the best wingers India produced. Capable of beating his man as well as producing a mean delivery into the box, Renedy is still showing glimpses of his previous form at Shillong Lajong, with his ability to cut inside and unleash a shot with either foot another added advantage.

Clifford Miranda – The Goan has had a great start to the season personally, providing goals and assists for Dempo. Has not always been a consistent player with the national team, but when on form, he can be give the opposition wing-backs a nightmare. Makes the cut based on his ability to pop up with the odd goal, and crossing abilities.

Forwards -

Bhaichung Bhutia – Is an explanation even needed? Easily India’s talisman for the best part of the last decade. Not only provided the Blue Tigers with timely goals, but set an example for the younger lot to follow. Dearth of options upfront means that he is sorely missed by the Indian fans.

Sunil Chhetri – Where would the present Indian team be without him? When you see Manandeep Singh and Sushil Kumar Singh as the alternative options, one can’t help but shudder at the thought of what would happen if the former Mohun Bagan player was unavailable.

He has replaced Bhutia as India’s “go-to” man, in times of trouble. However  he is yet to fully convince that he can take the Sikkimese Sniper’s leadership mantle. As a striker though, his place is safe in the playing eleven.


Subrata Paul

Deepak Mandal

Mahesh Gawli

M. Suresh

Syed Rahim Nabi

Renedy Singh

Climax Lawrence

Mehtab Hussain

Clifford Miranda

Bhaichung Bhutia

Sunil Chhetri

Do you agree with our XI? Who would make your starting line-up?...

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