Bhutia set to play a part in Asian Cup

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Doha, Jan 17 (PTI) After sitting out of India''s first twomatches, captain Bhaichung Bhutia will finally be a part ofthe playing XI in the Asian Cup football tournament as he isall set to play against South Korea in inconsequential lastgroup match here tomorrow.

Bhutia has been struggling with his calf muscle injury,which he sustained in mid-September last year. He hadconsulted the Australian team doctor here besides draining outthe blood clots at a local hospital.

"Bhaichung has not played for a long while. He is a verygood player. He will start at the bench tomorrow and we arehoping that he gets some time in the match," coach BobHoughton said at the pre-match press conference.

He said though South Korea are one of the favourites towin the tournament, his boys will try to play their best sothat they bow out of the tournament with their heads heldhigh.

"From India''s perspective, we are already eliminated fromthe tournament but still tomorrow''s match is very importantfor us. We have qualified for the Asian Cup for the first timein 27 years. Our performance here will have an impact on howIndian football moves ahead in future," he said.

"The AFC and FIFA are keen to raise the profile of Indianfootball and we want to do well in the tournament. We want toend the tournament with our heads held high.

"South Korea are a strong team and after watching theirmatch against Australia, which was of very high quality, Ithink they are one of the favourites to win the title. We willtry to play our own game and we are looking to be ascompetitive as we can against them," he said.

Houghton said his strategy was to play in the same wayagainst Australia and Bahrain by maintaining the shape and notgiving up.

"We kept going even after 0-3 and 1-4 down in the firsthalf against Australia and Bahrain. We want to play in thesame organised way, keeping the shape and not giving up," saidthe 63-year-old Englishman.

Centre back Gouramangi Singh, who scored a goal againstBahrain, said his team-mates were not overawed by thereputation of their opponents and they hope to give a goodaccount of themselves tomorrow.

"We are not overawed by the reputation of our rivals. Weare at the biggest stage of Asia after a long time. We want toshow we can compete at this platform, only thing we need isplaying in more such tournaments, more internationalfriendlies," he said.

"We have given a good account of ourselves so far. Wewant to do well against the South Koreans. Of course, we haveconceded too many goals in the opening session in the twomatches we had played. We hope to improve on that aspect,"said Gouramanagi.

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