India is poised to embark on their fifth appearance at the AFC Asian Cup this Saturday, aiming to surpass their performance in the 2019 edition where they secured only one win.

In their last campaign in 2019, the team achieved a notable 4-1 victory against Thailand in the opening game. Unfortunately, losses to Bahrain and UAE prevented them from advancing to the next round, resulting in elimination during the group stages.

Since that 2019 campaign under coach Stephen Constantine, India's squad has undergone significant transformations. Headed by Igor Stimac, the 26-man roster for the AFC Asian Cup 2019 comprises numerous new players who have solidified their positions in the national team, alongside a few surprise selections.

Notably, 17 fresh faces have found a place in the squad compared to the previous edition. Let's take a closer look at each of these additions.

Akash Mishra (Mumbai City FC)

Mishra has rapidly solidified his position as a key player at both the club and national levels. Demonstrating consistent and commendable performances in every match, along with dynamic runs down the flanks, he has firmly established himself as one of the premier fullbacks for the national team.

In recognition of his outstanding contributions, Mishra was honored with the AIFF Emerging Player of the Year award in 2023. Making his debut against Oman in 2021, he has since participated in 24 matches for the national team. Despite his youth, Mishra's defensive prowess has been remarkably steadfast, showcasing a level of play typically associated with seasoned players with years of experience.

Nikhil Poojary (Hyderabad FC)

At 28 years old, the full-back from Hyderabad FC has effectively secured the right-back position in the national team. Displaying exceptional performances for both his club and the country, his on-field partnerships with the team's forwards have been a delight for spectators.

Despite a challenging season for Hyderabad FC, he has stood out as a reliable performer and a shining light. Originally a right winger, his transition to the right fullback position has brought out the best in his abilities. Overcoming a setback in the form of an ACL injury in 2017, he has successfully revived his career.

After a four-year absence since his last appearance in India's goalless draw against Qatar in 2019, Poojary made a comeback during the Intercontinental Cup last year, leaving a strong impression on head coach Igor Stimac. His significant contributions also played a pivotal role in India's triumph at the SAFF Championship, solidifying his position as the preferred choice for the right-back slot in the Blue Tigers.

Lallianzuala Chhangte

The winger from Mumbai City FC has emerged as a crucial component for both his club and the national team in recent times.

Chhangte showcased his scoring prowess by netting four goals for India in 2023, playing a vital role in the team's victories in three major tournaments – the Tri Nations Tournament, the Intercontinental Cup, and the SAFF Championship. Renowned for his pace, direct runs, and skillful play, he stands as a significant figure in the national team.

Having debuted against Sri Lanka in the 2015 SAFF Championship, Chhangte marked his second game with his inaugural international goal against Nepal. Throughout the years, he has honed his attacking capabilities, enhancing his goal-scoring contributions and solidifying his position as a key starter for the national team.

Sahal Abdul Samad (Mohun Bagan Super Giant)

The 26-year-old midfielder from Mohun Bagan Super Giant has emerged as a highly creative attacking force for both his club and the national team in recent years. 

Recognized as one of the top passers in the national team, Sahal's adept combinations with fellow midfielders and his skillful passing to unlock defensive setups have positioned him as a pivotal player.

Sahal marked his debut for the national team against Curacao in 2019, and since then, he has continued to be a valuable asset with his dynamic style of play.

Vikram Partap Singh (Mumbai City FC)

Emerging as a surprise inclusion in India's squad, Singh has demonstrated steady improvement over the years, evolving into one of the key attacking assets for Mumbai City FC. While he is yet to make his senior national team debut, the upcoming AFC Asian Cup presents him with the opportunity to showcase his talent on a grand stage.

Having represented India at the youth levels, Singh earned recognition as the AIFF Emerging Player of the Year in 2022. In the current season, he has featured in 10 matches for Mumbai City FC, contributing with one goal and an assist. His dynamic runs from the wings have posed challenges for opposition defenders in the league, and he will aim to replicate the same impact in the AFC Asian Cup.

Lalchungnunga (East Bengal FC)

The 23-year-old has emerged as one of the rising stars for his club, East Bengal FC, particularly during the breakthrough campaign in the ISL 2022-23 season. With eight appearances in the league for East Bengal FC this season, he played a significant role in securing four clean sheets for his side.

Making his debut for the national team in the FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifier match against Qatar, Lalchungnunga has faced challenges in breaking into the starting eleven. However, his quality has been evident in the short time he has played for East Bengal FC. Known for his strength in tackles and commanding presence in aerial duels, he stands out as a young and fearless defender in India's ranks.

Naorem Mahesh Singh (East Bengal FC)

Mahesh stands out as one of the most exciting and creative midfielders in India, playing a crucial role for both his club, East Bengal FC, and the national team in recent times. With two goals in the league this season, he has showcased his scoring ability.

For the national team, Mahesh has contributed significantly, scoring three goals and providing one assist in 15 matches. Making his debut against Myanmar in 2022, he has steadily established himself as one of the top wingers for the national team. His attributes, including pace, vision, and passing accuracy, make him a valuable asset for the team.

Suresh Singh Wangjam (Bengaluru FC)

The Bengaluru FC player is among the top holding midfielders in India currently. Operating primarily as a defensive midfielder, Wangjam excels in a ball-winning role, disrupting opposing attacks and serving as his team's main catalyst in transition. This quality renders him an invaluable asset at both the club and national levels.

Having made his debut against Oman in 2021, Wangjam has accumulated one goal and one assist with the national team in 22 appearances.

Mehtab Singh (Mumbai City FC)

Singh received a call-up to the senior national team in 2023 following his outstanding performances for Mumbai City FC during the ISL 2022-23 season, which contributed to the club's League Shield victory.

As a ball-playing center back, Singh showcases versatility by making contributions at both ends of the pitch, complementing his robust defensive skills.

He made his senior debut against Myanmar in 2023, and since then, he has participated in eight games for the Blue Tigers.

Rahul Bheke (Mumbai City FC)

Versatile in his ability to play as a full-back or center-back, Bheke stands as one of the experienced figures in the Indian national team, bringing valuable expertise to the backline.

Having established himself as one of the premier Indian defenders in the ISL, he initially made his mark with Bengaluru FC and currently plies his trade with Mumbai City FC.

Bheke earned his debut against Curacao in 2019 under Stimac and has registered one goal with the national team.

Brandon Fernandes (FC Goa)

Fernandes is another exciting midfielder in India's ranks and could play a crucial role in the Blue Tigers' attack.

A natural attacking midfielder, Fernandes boasts strengths in his vision, diverse range of passing, and the ability to retain possession even in the tightest of spaces.

Making his debut for the national team in 2019 against Curacao, Fernandes has accumulated 22 appearances for the Blue Tigers, contributing with five assists.

Deepak Tangri (Mohun Bagan Super Giant)

Capable of featuring in defense or midfield, Tangri is yet to make his senior national team debut but has showcased his talent in the ISL, previously with Chennaiyin FC and now with Mohun Bagan SG.

Since his comeback from injury, he has participated in six games this season for the Mariners, finding the net once.

Known for his commendable passing range and the ability to shut down spaces, Tangri possesses defensive skills like tackles and interceptions.

Having represented India at the youth levels, he aims to make a significant impact for the Blue Tigers in the AFC Asian Cup.

Lalengmawia Ralte (Mumbai City FC)

Versatile across the midfield positions, Ralte stands out as one of the most talented midfielders in India and has proven to be a crucial player for his club, Mumbai City FC, as well as the national team, despite his young age.

In the ongoing ISL 2023-24 season, he has featured in 11 matches for Mumbai City FC, predominantly as an attacking midfielder, contributing with one goal and one assist.

Making his debut against Oman in 2021, Ralte has represented the Blue Tigers in 13 matches since then. His ability to make a substantial impact at both ends of the pitch underscores his significance as a key player.

Liston Colaco (Mohun Bagan Super Giant)

A pivotal figure in India's forward line, Colaco stands out as one of the most influential players with unique qualities. His versatility allows him to excel across various positions in the forward line, showcasing his ability to both score goals and set them up.

In the ongoing ISL 2023-24 season, Colaco has featured in eight matches for his club Mohun Bagan SG, contributing significantly with three assists and one goal.

Having made his national team debut against UAE in 2021, Colaco has amassed 18 appearances, registering one assist in the process.

Ishan Pandita (Kerala Blasters FC)

While Pandita has not cemented his position as a consistent starter for the national team, his evident qualities make a compelling case.

Operating primarily as a number nine, Pandita exhibits agility, speed, and sharpness in attacking the opposition box.

His debut for the national team was against Oman in 2021, and since then, he has featured in seven matches, contributing with a goal along the way.

Manvir Singh (Mohun Bagan Super Giant)

Blessed with speed and the ability to execute darting runs into the box or unleash shots with either foot, Singh stands out among the talented wingers in India's squad.

His explosive pace and well-timed runs pose challenges for opposition defenders during attacks, exemplified by his decisive goal against Kuwait in the initial match of the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers campaign.

Having made his national team debut against Mauritius in 2017, Singh has accumulated 37 matches for the Blue Tigers since then. In this period, he has found the net seven times and provided two assists for the national team.

Rahul Kannoly Praveen (Kerala Blasters FC)

Rahul KP's reputation has soared in recent years, showcasing his skills for Kerala Blasters FC.

Blessed with exceptional pace and a touch of trickery, he has evolved into a valuable asset that national team head coach Igor Stimac can leverage in the AFC Asian Cup.

Having marked his debut for the national team against Singapore in 2022, Rahul KP has participated in six matches for the Blue Tigers since then.