Pyari Xaxa, Manisha Kalyan and more - Who are the stars of Indian team at the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup?

India Women XI vs Hammarby IFAIFF Media

The AFC Women's Asian Cup will kick off on January 20, 2022 in India. The hosts will be in action on the very first day when they take on Iran, at the DY Patil Sports Stadium in Navi Mumbai. This is the second time India are organising the tournament after the 1979 edition wherein they finished runners-up to Chinese Taipei. 

The Indian Women’s team head coach Thomas Dennerby has named a 23-strong squad for the upcoming tournament. The players and support staff had been camping in Kochi, Kerala since the team’s return from Brazil, and have now travelled to Mumbai on Thursday. It is a relatively younger squad as 15 players are under the age of 25.

“We have a good bunch of young players, and some experienced heads too. The young ones are hungry to prove themselves, so that brings in a good level of energy and healthy competition for places,” Dennerby said. “But it also works the other way round -- as the experienced players can guide the young ones in different things both on and off the pitch," stated the Swedish coach.

Let us take a detailed look at each of the 23 players.

Aditi Chauhan (Goalkeeper)

Aditi Chauhan West Ham United Ladies
Aditi/Twitter

The 29-year-old keeper is expected to be the first-choice keeper for the Indian team in the Asian Cup. She currently plies her trade for Gokulam Kerala with whom she won the Indian Women's League in the 2019-20 season. Very few know that she has an MSC in sports management from Loughborough University. Chauhan also has the distinction of playing for West Ham United Ladies.

Maibam Linthoingambi Devi (Goalkeeper)

Linthoi Devi
AIFF Media

The 22-year old goalkeeper hails from Manipur and plays for KRYPHSA FC in the Indian Women's League. She performed brilliantly in the second round of the 2020 AFC Women's Olympic qualifiers and kept a clean sheet against Indonesia. Linthoi had previously represented India in the qualifiers for the 2015 AFC U-16 Women's Championship and the 2017 AFC U-19 Women's Championship.

Sowmiya Narayanasamy (Goalkeeper)

Sowmiya is another young keeper who is just 21 years old. She hails from Tamil Nadu and won the Indian Women's League title in 2019 with Sethu FC. She was previously a part of the India U-19 squad as well.

Dalima Chhibber (Defender)

Dalima Chhibber

The 24-year-old right-back made her debut in 2016 South Asian Games in which India went on to win the gold medal. She has also won two SAFF Women's Championship in 2016 and 2019 respectively. She plays for Gokulam Kerala in the Indian Women's League. She is the set-piece specialist of the team. Chhibber is famous for her 35-yeard freekick against Nepal in the 2019 SAFF final. She was even named as the most valuable player of the tournament.

Sweety Devi

Sweety Devi

The 22-year-old defender is expected to partner Ashalata Devi at the heart of defence. She has a strong aerial presence and is a key figure during set-pieces. At the age of just 14, she scored for India in an AFC U-19 Women's Championship qualifying match against Lebanon and made her senior national team debut at 17 in the 2018 AFC Women's Asian Cup qualifiers. She has won the South Asian Games and the SAFF Championship with India. Sweety has 22 international caps and two goals to her name. In the domestic league, she plays for KRYPHSA FC.

 Ritu Rani

ritu rani

Rani hails from the famous footballing village of Alakhpura in Haryana. She started playing football at the age of 10. She was called up to the national team camp in 2017 but an injury sidelined her for two years. She made a comeback in the 2019 COTIF Cup and has been a regular since then. She plays for Gokulam Kerala in the Indian WOmen's League.

Ashalata Devi (Defender)

Ashalata Devi India Women

Ashalata is expected to lead the Indian side in the Asian Cup. She is one of the veterans in the team and is known for her astute defending. In 2019, she won the  AIFF Player of the Year and was also amongst the final three nominees of the AFC Women's Player of the Year. She has won the SAFF Championship four times (2012, 2014, 2016, 2019) and the South Asian Games twice (2016, 2019). She is the penalty specialist and has 55 appearances for the Indian team.

Manisa Panna (Defender)

The 30-year old defender hails from Odisha and plays for Gokulam Kerala in the domestic league. She is known for her strong aerial presence during set-pieces. She scored her first goal for India in the 4-0 win over Bangladesh in the 2019 SAFF Women's Championship semi-final. Previously she has represented India in the U-17 and U-19 levels.

Shilky Devi (Defender)

Shilky devi
AIFF

Shilky Devi is just 16-year-old and is the youngest player of the upcoming Asian Cup. She hails from the Moirang village in Manipur and started her career at the Langthabal Club. In the Sub Junior Girls National Football Championship 2018-19, she scored the winner against Odisha to help Manipur lift the title. Her goal scoring prowess continued in the international arena as well and the India U15 team rode on skipper Shilky’s hattrick to kick-start its 2018 SAFF U-15 Championship campaign by thumping Sri Lanka 12-0. In the semi-finals, she scored once again to beat Bhutan 1-0 and seal a berth in the final. She ended the tournament as the joint top-scorer and India won the championship. She was supposed to be the captain of the India team that was put together to participate in the 2020 FIFA U17 World Cup which was ultimately cancelled due to Covid-19.

Sanju Yadav (Defender)

Sanju Yadav
AIFF

The 24-year-old defender began playing football to earn scholarships for her family.  She got her first football tutorial at the Government Senior School, Alakhpura, under physical instructor Gordhan Dass when she was in Class V.  she became the youngest footballer in the senior India team when she got a call before the South Asian Games in 2016. On February 13, she made her debut against Bangladesh and also found the net in her first appearance in the famed blue jersey. In the same year the AIFF bestowed upon her the Emerging Player of the Year award. She has 11 goals for India and plays for Gokulam Kerala in the Indian Women's League.

Kamala Devi (Midfielder)

Kamala Devi Kolhapur City SAI-STC Cuttack IWL 2019

The 29-year player is one of the integral players of the squad. She was AIFF Women's Player of the Year in 2017. With 33 goals for the national team, she is one of the highest international goalscorers in Indian women's football history. At just 16, she was picked for the U-19 side. She has won four SAFF Women's Championship trophies (2010, 2012, 2014, 2016) and two gold medals at the South Asian Games (2010 and 2016). She was the top-scorer in the inaugural edition of the Indian Women's League with 12 goals for champions Eastern Sporting Union. She won her second title with Gokulam Kerala in 2019.

Anju Tamang (Midfielder)

Tamang made her national team debut in 2016. Interestingly, she has the record of scoring the fastest goal in IWL as he took just 14 seconds to break the deadlock for Gokulam Kerala against Central SSB Women in 2019. She has scored a few important goals for the national team as well. Tamang netted the winner in India's 1-0 win over Iran in the 2019 Gold Cup in Bhubaneswar. The 26-year-old currently plays for KRYPHSA FC.

Ratanbala Devi (Midfielder)

The 22-year-old midfielder is one of the key players for the Indian team. She made her debut in 2017 for the AFC Women's Asian Cup qualifiers. She has an international hat-trick against Indonesia that she scored in January 2019. Ratanabala was awarded the 2019-20 AIFF Emerging Women’s Footballer of the Year. She plays for KRYPHSA in the IWL.

Priyangka Devi (Midfielder)

Priyangka has the ability to set the tempo to a match with her varied passing skills. She was awarded the most valuable player trophy of the 2018 SAFF U-15 Women's Championship. She also has a habit of scoring goals in crucial moments. She found the net thrice in India U-7 tour of Hong Kong. Priyangka was also the top scorer at the 2021 SAFF U-19 Women's Championship with four goals. She hopes to make her senior national team debut in the upcoming Asian Cup.

Karthika Angamuthu (Midfielder)

The 22-year old made her national team debut against Venezuela in December 2021 in Brazil. She hails from Tamil Nadu and plays for Sethu FC.

Indumathi Kathiresan (Midfielder)

Indumathi Kathiresan
AIFF Media

The 27-year-old midfielder hails from Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu. She is employed with the Tamil Nadu Police and was a frontline worker during the Covid-19 pandemic. She was the joint top-scorer in the 2019 SAFF Women’s Championship and is an IWL winner with Sethu FC. After making her debut with the national team in 2014 she made 43 appearances and has scored 14 goals.

Sumati Kumari (Forward)

The 18-year-old winger hails from Jharkhand and is known for pace and creativity in the attacking third. She loves to whip in crosses and the Indian strikers will be waiting eagerly for her inch-perfect deliveries. She made her debut against Tunisia in 2021. She scored thrice in the 2019 SAFF U-15 Women's Championship to help India clinch the trophy. She was also the top-scorer of the Junior Girls' National Championship after scoring 17 times for her state.

Sandhiya Ranganathan (Forward)

Sandhiya

Sandhiya hails from Panruti in Tamil Nadu. She started playing football at the age of just six. She was first called up for the Senior National Team in 2018 ahead of the COTIF Women’s Cup in Spain. A clinical striker, Sandhya was the second-highest scorer in the 2019-20 IWL with 13 goals. Whereas, at the 2021-22 Senior Women's National Championship, Sandhiya was the tournament's top scorer with 12 goals for Tamil Nadu. In India colours, she has scored six times in just 10 appearances.

Mariyammal Balamurugan (Forward)

Mariyammal is a product of the  Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu’s (SDAT). She started playing football when she was in class VIII. She was selected in the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup squad.

Renu (Forward)

The striker made her senior national team debut in April 2021 against Belarus. She had scored a hat-trick in the  2017 AFC U-16 Women's Championship qualifiers against Malaysia and went on to score five against Pakistan in the 2019 AFC U-19 Championship qualifiers. Renu also scored the winner against Chinese Taipei in a friendly in October 2021.

Pyari Xaxa (Forward)

Pyari Xaxa
AIFF Media

The Odisha-born player started her career with the local club Kunwarmunda. In 2015 she has won the AIFF Emerging Woman Footballer of the Year. She has scored some crucial goals in her career including a brace against Malaysia and Bahrain each. Pyari won the Indian Football Fans' Player of the Year 2020–21 for her brilliance on the pitch. She has 20 national team caps and has scored seven goals.

Dangmei Grace (Forward)

India Nepal Dangmei Grace

The 25-year-old started her sporting career in athletics and was be a sprinter running 100m and 200m races. She made her national team debut in 2013 and bagged the AIFF Emerging Player of the Year in 2019. Grace was part of the squad that won the 2016 South Asian Games gold medal and the two consecutive SAFF Championships in 2016 and 2019. She scored a brace against Indonesia in the second round of the 2020 AFC Women's Olympic Qualifiers. Grace has made 47 international appearances and has scored 16 goals.

Manisha Kalyan (Forward)

Manisha Kalyan Indian women
AIFF

The 20-year-old is one of the brightest stars in the Indian women's football team. She was born in Mugowal district in Punjab's Hoshiarpur district on November 27, 2001. She was into athletics initially, at least till she was 13 years old.

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In the 2019 AFC U19 Women's Championship qualifiers she scored a hat-trick against Pakistan. In 2021, she became the first-ever Indian player to score in a top-flight Asian competition as she found the back of the net for Gokulam Kerala FC in a 2021 AFC Women's Asian Championship, against Uzbekistan's FC Bunyodkor. She was named the Emerging Player of the Year by AIFF in 2021.

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