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Houghton sets sights on 2011 Asian Cup

August 07, 2008 20:38 IST

India football coach Bob Houghton heaped praise on his charges for their "immense desire to win" in difficult conditions.

India rode on an 82nd minute goal by striker Sunil Chhetri to beat Myanmar 1-0 and book a berth in the final of the of the eight-nation AFC Challenge Cup tournament, the winner of which will qualify for the 2011 Asian Cup.

"It is great to win today and great to qualify for the final though the match was played in extremely difficult conditions. The most important factor for our victory was the immense desire to win shown by the boys.

"Sunil Chhetri was the example. He played with stitches on his forehead and still scored a goal by a header," he said at the post-match press conference.

"Ideally, we wanted a match decided by football factors, but the conditions were the same for both the teams. The poor ground conditions should not deprive the boys the credit for the victory. They deserve to win today," he added, referring to the unplayable conditions at the Gachibowli Stadium, which had pools of water in the middle after a heavy downpour during the breather.

Houghton praised Chhetri for the hard work under difficult conditions and playing despite having stitches on his forehead.

"He missed at least two clear chances and I am happy he got the winner. He played with stitches on his forehead and still he scored a goal. He showed lots of character and that is the sign of a good player," the 60-year-old Englishman said.

The home team coach admitted his charges were under pressure in the first session but came through in the second.

"That was a difficult first half. We wanted to finish it as soon as possible and come back stronger in the second half but the ground conditions worsened. We came through finally though," he said.

All this while, Houghton had been resisting himself talking about the ambition to play in the Asian Cup, but having made the final, to be played on Sunday, the Englishman seemed to have sights of the elite-level Asian tournament.

"It is a big day for the team and for me and we are one game away from reaching the 2011 Asian Cup," Houghton said, when asked whether he would think of Sunday as the most important day of his stint in India.

"If we qualify we will be among 16 best teams in Asia. We want to do well in the tournament and will have two-and-half years time to prepare for the tournament.

"Moreover, we will not play the Asian Cup qualifiers in November and we can have friendly matches during that time," he said.

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