Indian coach optimistic ahead of Asian Cup

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Indian football coach Bob Houghton addressed a press conference before his team's departure for Jeddah.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:36 IST
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New Delhi:

Indian football coach Bob Houghton addressed a press conference before his team's departure for Jeddah. Like the media and the fans, Houghton has almost no expectations from his team, which has had a miserable run in the Asian Cup 2007 qualifiers. But at least the team won't be overawed by the presence of numerous world cuppers, at least if the captain is to be believed. "Not many teams can expect to win in Saudi Arabia. Even Italy and France would be happy to go and win two matches there," said Bob Houghton, Indian Football Coach. "There are numerous problems. The playing surface is different. It's better, the stadium is huge. The temperature is 40 degrees and the team won't be able to put the kind of pressure it did on the Saudis in Kolkata, since the ground won't be bad," he added. "None of the players have heard of the Saudis, so they won't be overawed by them and their reputation. What's important is to play well as a unit," said Bhaichung Bhutia, Indian Football Captain. India had lost three-nil to Saudia Arabia in the AFC Cup last month, a defeat that resigned the team to the bottom of the table without a point to its credit. The coach is looking to address the team's lack of scoring prowess. The last three outings against Japan, Yemen and the Saudis ended in resounding defeats with the forwards missing numerous scoring opportunities. "We still struggle to put the ball in the opposing penalty box. Once it's there, we can think about using tall players to score. That's an area where we've struggled, so the man sitting next to me (Bhaichung) will be the key. We've got plans around him that we'll try to implement over there," said Bob Houghton, Coach, Indian Football Team. With India already out of the running for a place in the Asian Cup, their match against Saudi Arabia is now purely academic. But it will prove to be invaluable in terms of exposure as the team looks ahead to the Asian Games in Doha this winter.