Doha, Jan 19 (PTI) Indian football team coach BobHoughton has warned title favourites South Korea to guardagainst complacency and believed their imposing show in groupstage of the Asian Cup was no guarantee to success in theknock-out stage of the tournament.
While admiring the impressive form of the South Koreansin the event, the Englishman cautioned that the teams whodon''t start well sometimes end up winning the championship.
"I don''t think anyone could disagree that Korea will beone of the real favourites to win the tournament," Houghtonsaid after his team''s 1-4 defeat to Korea.
"They''ve looked really good in the group. But often it''sthe teams who don''t start well end up winning the tournament.
Japan have hit form, Qatar have qualified and have got homeadvantage, Australia were good as well.
"But we have great respect for Korea. I''ve been veryimpressed by them and they were very good against us."
The Asian powerhouse will face Iran in the quarterfinalson January 22 at the Qatar Sports Club Stadium.
South Korea ended their Group C engagements with second-place finish behind Australia, who finished on top after their1-0 victory over Bahrain yesterday.
India gave glimpses of their fighting abilities againstSouth Korea with striker Sunil Chhetri reducing the margin inthe 12th minute of the game.
India were appearing in their first Asian Cup since 1984and Houghton vowed the country will come back stronger in thenext edition in 2015, having gained rich experience afterplaying in the continent''s biggest stage.
"It was a tough tournament, playing three matches ineight days that too against top sides like Australia and SouthKorea. We have played our best, the boys fought till the endin all the three matches. We can return home with our headsheld high.
"The boys have gained rich experience from thecompetition. So I think we will come back stronger and givebetter performances against the likes of Australia and SouthKorea in the next Asian Cup," Houghton said.
The 63-year-old Englishman said he was happy that captainBhaichung Bhutia played for some time against South Korea.
"This boy is a great servant of Indian football. He hasplayed more than 100 international matches for the country inhis more than 16 years of career. He is liked by all histeam-mates and is a big influence on the team. I am happy forhim," said Houghton.
Bhutia, who came in the 78th minute in place of AbhishekYadav, played for nearly 15 minutes.