AFC Asian Cup 2022: Meet India’s 23-member squad
The 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup – to be held in India from January 20 – will see the top 12 Asian teams compete for the trophy. As well as five places for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.
The hosts, under Swedish coach Thomas Dennerby, have named a young 23-member squad for the event, with 15 players under the age of 25. Star player Bala Devi is out with an ACL injury, but they are a well-rounded team and have strong knockout hopes.
Here is the team (Jersey numbers in brackets):
Aditi Chauhan (#1)
NT Caps: 49 | Age: 29 | State: Delhi
The first choice goalkeeper. A veteran and team leader, she became the first Indian woman to play competitive football in England when she signed for West Ham United in 2015. Last year, she signed for Icelandic club Hamar Hveragerdi but the pandemic derailed those plans. She was in goal during Gokulam Kerala’s IWL victory in 2020 and their AFC Women’s Club Championship campaign in 2021.
Maibam Linthoingambi Devi (#2)
NT Caps: 5 | Age: 22 | State: Manipur
Relatively new to the Indian team, she put on a solid show in the AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifiers 2020. Played for Gokulam and KRYPHSA FC.
Sowmiya Narayanasamy (#3)
NT Caps: 1 | Age: 21 | State: Tamil Nadu
The third-choice keeper. Was part of Sethu FC’s winning IWL side in 2019.
Dalima Chhibber (#4)
NT Caps: 29 | Goals: 2 | Age: 24 | State: Delhi
Chibber, her curler of long-range goals and viral free-kicks (remember the howler against Nepal in the 2019 SAFF Championship?) is the start of the team, but is also comfortable further forward. She is the team’s set piece specialist and won the title of MVP in the SAFF Women’s Championship (SWC) triumph in India in 2019.
Currently with the Gokulam Champions, also played with the Manitoba Bisons in Canada (where she did her PG in Sports Psychology).
Cherie Devi Ngangbam (#5)
NT Caps: 26 | Goals: 0 | Age: 22 | State: Manipur
Tackling-challenging Sweety debuted in 2017 and hasn’t looked back since. Its partnership with Ashalata Devi at the heart of the defense is one of India’s strengths. Won the IWL with Sethu in 2019 and currently plays for KRYPHSA.
Ritu Rani (#6)
NT Caps: 2 | Goals: 0 | Age: 24 | State: Haryana
One of the many versatile players in the squad, Ritu is a full-back who can also slot into midfield when needed. Was originally selected for NT senior camp in 2017 but a long-term knee injury sidelined her for some time. Made his return to the NT side in 2019 and have been a regular since then. Play his club football for Gokulam.
Loitongbam Ashalata Devi (#7)
NT Caps: 64 | Goals: 4 | Age: 28 | State: Manipur
Captain of the team and its most experienced member. Starting out as a midfielder, she is now the best central defender in the country.
His composure and leadership have been vital to the team of late, when India made it through the second round of Tokyo Olympics qualifying and won the SWC. Also won the IWL with Sethu FC that year. Her performances earned her a nomination for the AFC Women’s Player of the Year in 2019.
Manisa Panna (#8)
NT Caps: 15 | Goals: 0 | Age: 30 | State: Odisha
A defender at ease in central and back defense. Has been in and out of the squad since 2015 but lately has been an integral part of the team. His aerial prowess has an impact on both sides of the pitch.
Played for the Rising Students Club and was a member of Gokulam’s winning IWL team.
Hemam Shilky Devi (#9)
NT Caps: 2 | Goals: 0 | 16 years old | State: Manipur
A prodigious talent who captained India at U-17 and U-19 levels. Plays for the Young Welfare Club in his home country. A midfielder by trade, she is in the squad as cover for various positions.
Sanju Yadav (#10)
NT Caps: 33 | Goals: 7 | Age: 24 | State: Haryana
One of the most versatile players in the team, Sanju is comfortable on the left flank in defence, midfield and attack. From being named AIFF Emerging Player of the Year in 2016 to becoming Women’s Player of the Year in 2019-20, she has become a mainstay in the NT setup. In the season she won the top prize, she won the SWC and IWL with Gokulam.
Yumnam Kamala Devi (#11)
NT Caps: 51 | Goals: 33 | Age: 29 | State: Manipur
In the absence of the injured Bala Devi, Kamala is easily the team’s top scorer. Equally adept at creating and scoring goals, she plays as an attacking midfielder or supporting striker.
Spent over two years outside the NT set up after a falling out with the coaching staff, but was recalled by Dennerby. Consistently among the top scorers and top assists in the Nationals and IWL, she currently plays for Gokulam.
Anju Tamang (#12)
NT Caps: 28 | Goals: 2 | Age: 26 | State: West Bengal
A versatile midfielder at home in multiple positions, Anju joined the team in 2016. She holds the record for the fastest goal in IWL history when she scored after just 14 seconds for Gokulam against Central SSB Women in 2019.
Karthika Angamuthu (#13)
NT Caps: 1 | Goals: 0 | Age: 22 | State: Tamil Nadu
Made her international debut through Dennerby against Venezuela in December 2021, although she has been part of the side set up since 2019. The versatile midfielder plays for Sethu.
Nongmeithem Ratanbala Devi (#14)
NT Caps: 29 | Goals: 14 | Age: 22 | State: Manipur
An attacking midfielder by trade, Ratanbala is comfortable in any attacking third position. Quick and skilful, she is one of the most prolific members of the team.
Called up to the NT in 2017 for the Asian Cup qualifiers, she was the AIFF’s Emerging Footballer of the Year in 2019-20. Plays club football for KRYPHSA.
Naorem Priyangka Devi (#15)
NT Caps: 0 | Goals: 0 | Age: 18 | State: Manipur
Impressive performances at junior level saw Priyangka earn a first senior call-up for the senior NT. The attacking midfielder was India’s top scorer at SWC U-19 2021 (four goals). Previously, she was named 2018 SWC U-15 MVP.
Indumathi Kathiresan (#16)
NT Caps: 40 | Goals: 10 | Age: 27 | State: Tamil Nadu
The team’s general midfielder; a deep playmaker who dictates India’s pace of play and is his main creative force.
Was the 2019 SWC co-top scorer and won the IWL with Sethu. A pioneer of women’s football in Tamil Nadu, she was the top scorer in her state’s first national championship victory in 2018.
However, she was unable to perform for the country or in the IWL for over a year after that, reportedly due to the Tamil Nadu police, her employers, denying her permission. She returns to the team in 2021. In 2020, as a police officer, she is notably on the front line during national confinement.
Manisha Kalian (#17)
NT Caps: 15 | Goals: 3 | Age: 20 | State: Punjab
Made headlines when she scored that goal against Brazil at the end of 2021; it was after all the first by an Indian woman against a top 10 team. The team’s most exciting talent, and had earlier last year become the first ever Indian player to score in an Asian top competition level when she scored in the AFC Asian Women’s Championship against FC Bunyodkar of Uzbekistan.
Direct and quick, Manisha uses her pace wisely on both wings. Named the 2020-21 AIFF Women’s Emerging Footballer of the Year, she also played a key role in Gokulam’s 2020 IWL triumph.
Grace Dangmei (#18)
NT Caps: 43 | Goals: 12 | Age: 25 | State: Manipur
She broke into the NT senior team in 2013 but was named AIFF Emerging Footballer of the Year in 2019, the year she won the IWL with Sethu FC. The defender-turned-winger was also prolific in the 2020 Olympic qualifiers.
Going into the tournament, she is one of the team’s in-form strikers, having notably scored a remarkable header against Venezuela in December.
Pyari Xaxa (#19)
NT Caps: 8 | Goals: 4 | Age: 24 | State: Odisha
Named Emerging Footballer of the Year by the AIFF in 2015. Won the IWL with Rising Students. Having started as a midfielder, she has since adapted to become the team’s frontline striker. She, too, is in fine form after scoring a brace in a 5-0 win over Bahrain in October last year.
NT Caps: 2 | Goals: 0 | Age: 20 | State: Haryana
Made his debut in 2021, in a friendly against Belarus in April. It came after a good show at junior level – when she memorably scored five goals against Pakistan in the 2019 AFC U-19 Championship qualifiers after coming off the bench.
Most recently, she scored the winning goal in India’s 1-0 victory over Chinese Taipei – a higher-seeded side who are in the same group at the Asian Cup – in a friendly in October.
Sumati Kumari (#21)
NT Caps: 0 | Goals: 0 | Age: 17 | State: Jharkand
Another youngster who reached the NT straight after impressive performances in his age group. A dynamic winger, her highlight was when she scored three goals in India’s successful U-15 SWC 2019 campaign. She first made it into the senior squad at the start of 2021 and made her debut in October against Tunisia in a friendly match.
Sandhiya Ranganathan (#22)
NT Caps: 10 | Goals: 8 | Age: 23 | State: Tamil Nadu
Has been a regular goal scorer for India as well as in domestic competition. Debuted in 2018 and had consistent returns in all tournaments. Was a key part of Sethu’s 2019 IWL triumph and was the top scorer in the following year’s edition. Was also the top scorer in the recently concluded 2021 Senior National Championships.
Mariyammal Balamurugan (#23)
NT Caps: 2 | Goals: 0 | Age: 18 | State: Tamil Nadu
Was selected to the senior team after prolific outings in junior tournaments. Was chosen in the 2019 AFC Women’s U-19 Championship qualifying squad when she was just 15 and made her senior debut three years later on the South American tour in the end of last year.
NOTE: Statistics for NT caps and goals are from the official AFC document. Player positions are based on how they are named in the team.