Describing Sunday's AFC Challenge Cup final against defending champions Tajikistan as a big day for Indian football, captain Baichung Bhutia said his boys are determined to win the title and qualify for the
2011 Asian Cup.
"It will be one of the biggest moments for Indian football. We will qualify for the Asian Cup if we win on Sunday. We are looking forward to beating Tajikistan," he said.
"Tajikistan are a good side and we drew with them in the group stage, but the boys are determined and focused to win. They know how important is to win the title for Indian football," said the Sikkimese, who has led from the front and taken the team to the summit clash.
With two goals in his kitty, and having played an inspiring role in all the matches so far, Baichung is also in the reckoning for the most valuable player of the tournament award.
The Abdullah Al Dabal Most Valuable Player award is given to the player who has had a major influence on his team's matches and the competition as a whole.
Baichung scored a brace in India's 2-1 final Group A win against Turkmenistan and also set up the winning goal for strike partner Sunil Chhetri in the 1-0 semi-final victory over Myanmar on Thursday.
The 'Sikkimese Sniper' was also instrumental in salvaging India's crucial 1-1 draw against Tajikistan in the second group match. Officially, India's equalising goal was recorded as an own goal by Tajik goalkeeper but Baichung claimed he had touched the ball while trying to connect a Steven Dias cross from the right flank.
Another player in the reckoning for the Most Valuable Player award is Tajikistan's Yusuf Rabiev.
Midfielder Rabiev has played an influential role in his team's journey to the final. He is level with Turkmenistan's Guvanchmuhamed Ovekov
at the top of the scoring charts with four goals apiece. Three of Rabiev's goals came against Afghanistan in his team's final Group A match while the other was against India.