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WC Qualification Asia

World Cup qualifiers: Midfield trio of Sahal Abdul Samad, Anirudh Thapa and Amarjit Singh key for India

08:16 GMT+4 21/08/2019
Amarjit Kiyam India
The three young midfielders were excellent in tandem during the 2019 Intercontinental Cup in Ahmedabad...

A pivotal month lies in store for India and Igor Stimac as the Blue Tigers prepare for the crucial round two of the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers.

Having been drawn in Group E, India have been given a tough start in their fixture run with their opening two clashes coming against Oman and AFC Asian Cup champions Qatar.

It will be the biggest test of Stimac’s credentials since he took over as coach of the Indian team.

The Croatian has opted to blood in several young faces since taking over the reins from Stephen Constantine. Stimac rang in the changes for India in the King’s Cup in Thailand and the Intercontinental Cup at home with the midfield in particular seeing plenty of experimentation.

While many candidates have auditioned for the job over the course of these games, it is the young trio of Sahad Abdul Samad, Anirudh Thapa and Amarjit Singh Kiyam who have impressed the most at the centre of the park.

The chemistry between the three youngsters in midfield was evident in the Intercontinental Cup despite India’s average campaign (when it came to results). The team’s performances were automatically elevated when they featured together on the pitch.

They were excellent in tandem in the first period of India’s opening clash against Tajikistan before Stimac took off Amarjit for Vinit Rai at the interval. The former India U17 skipper’s physical presence at the base of the midfield was greatly felt in the second-half with Tajikistan cutting India open at will before completing a come-from-behind 4-2 victory.

The 18-year-old is adept at pressing and closing the channels and he loves a tackle or two with his high-intensity game. While Amarjit brings the doggedness and steel at the base, Samad and Thapa are adept at moving the ball around quickly with the former possessing the ability to drive through the centre.

The three young midfielders complement each other brilliantly and the same chemistry was lacking when India started with Brandon Fernandes, Amarjit and Borges in the middle against DPR Korea.

The hosts were kept on the backfoot throughout the first period by the Koreans and went into the break 3-0 down before Thapa and Samad were introduced in the second half. While India ultimately tasted a 2-5 defeat, Thapa and Samad showed some great bits in the limited minutes they had on the pitch together with the latter setting up India’s second goal with another driving surge.

Samad’s technical ability on the ball has never been in doubt ever since he broke through as a youngster with Kerala Blasters and the midfielder has been a deserving winner of All India Football Federation's (AIFF) Emerging Player of the Year Award recently. Thapa, meanwhile, has already gained plenty of experience at both the international and club level despite only being 21 and can keep things nice and simple in the midfield with his quick passing.

The Chennaiyin midfielder is good at dead-ball situations while he also has the occasional eye for goal as shown by his terrific strike against Thailand in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in the UAE.

It was hence no surprise to see Stimac field the trio together in India’s final Intercontinental Cup clash against Syria with the qualities they possess complementing each other perfectly. It might indeed be the direction the Croatian chooses to go with in the upcoming qualifiers against Oman and Qatar and it would actually be the smart choice based on the little evidence we have seen so far from the trio.