International Friendlies: Ishan Pandita, Akash Mishra earn maiden call-up for India’s friendlies against Oman, UAE

International Friendlies: Ishan Pandita, Akash Mishra earn maiden call up for India’s friendlies against Oman, UAE

International Friendlies: After impressive performances in the Indian Super League, FC Goa’s Ishan Pandita and Hyderabad FC’s Akash Mishra were rewarded with India national team call-ups for FIFA friendly matches against Oman and the UAE. The two matches are slated to be played in Dubai on March 25 and 29 respectively.

Pandita, who has played just 56 minutes for FC Goa the whole season, has been a super-sub for the team, scoring four crucial goals. The limited time he has got in the Indian Super League, the 22-year-old forward has utilized them well.

It would be fair to say that Pandita is one of the reasons why Goa are in the semifinals of the ISL 2020-21. His goals in the stoppage time rescued crucial points for the Gaurs, keeping their hopes alive at times when it looked like Goa, on the back of a string of draws, would fail to make it to the Top-4.

Pandita, who returned to India after training and club stints in Spain, dreamt of playing for the country and wanted to impress India coach Igor Stimac, playing in the ISL. Now, a dream has been fulfilled.

“Obviously, I am very excited, happy. I feel proud and honoured to receive the call. As I said earlier any kid would love to represent their country and when the call comes, you have to take it. So, I am over the moon, excited and ready to put in some good work for this country,” Pandita told InsideSport from Goa.

International Friendlies: Ishan Pandita, Akash Mishra earn maiden call up for India’s friendlies against Oman, UAE

As for Mishra, he has been a revelation this season. With his pace and attacking mindset, the 19-year-old has made Hyderabad FC’s left-back position his own, playing all 20 matches, and featuring the entire 90 minutes. His performance in the league was enough to impress India’s head coach Igor Stimac to name him in the list of 35 probables for the two friendlies.

From the 35 probables, 28 players will be shortlisted by March 28 for a camp in Dubai from March 15 onwards. “We have kept 35 players in the list as a cushion in case any player picks up an injury during the HISL playoffs,” Stimac said.

While Stimac was not present for the ISL matches in Goa, he had a good look at the players’ performance from the live telecast. A total of 10 new faces have been called up apart from Pandita and Mishra.

“It’s been a difficult year for all of us and finally, we are all getting together. It will be great to meet some new young guns and to check how bright our future is with them,” Stimac said.

“I know the season was a tough one and players might be overloaded. But, we have enough time to refresh their legs and brains. However, many of them will have a break of two weeks without any organised training sessions prior to joining the camp. Hopefully, they will execute their individual working plans,” he added.

With India’s forward line not hitting the mark apart from skipper Sunil Chhetri, Pandita could be a great addition. He is skilful and fast and could play on all three front positions. However, Mishra will have to fight for a place with first-choice Subhasish Bose, who has been India’s pillar in the left-back position.

Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Dheeraj Singh, Vishal Kaith.

Defenders: Seriton Fernandes, Ashutosh Mehta, Akash Mishra, Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Chinglensana Singh, Sarthak Golui, Adil Khan, Mandar Rao Dessai, Prabir Das, Mashoor Shereef.

Midfielders: Udanta Singh, Rowllin Borges, Lalengmawia, Jeakson Singh, Raynier Fernandes, Anirudh Thapa, Bipin Singh, Yasir Mohammad, Suresh Singh, Liston Colaco, Halicharan Narzary, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Ashique Kuruniyan, Rahul KP, Hitesh Sharma, Farukh Choudhary.

Forwards: Manvir Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Ishan Pandita.

International Friendlies: Ishan Pandita, Akash Mishra earn maiden call up for India’s friendlies against Oman, UAE