AFC final a big day for Indian soccer: Bhutia

The India captain says beating Tajikistan in Sunday's final would be a big step forward for football in the country.

updated: August 14, 2008 16:22 IST
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Describing Sunday's AFC Challenge Cup final against defending champions Tajikistan as a big day for Indian football, captain Bhaichung Bhutia said his boys were 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 focussed to win. They know how much important is to win the title for Indian football," said the Sikkimese who has led from the front to take the team to the summit clash.

With two goals under his kitty and playing an inspiring role in all the matches so far, Bhutia 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.

Bhutia scored a brace in India's 2-1 final Group A win against Turkmenistan while also setting up the winning goal by his strike partner Sunil Chhetri in the 1-0 semifinal victory over Myanmar yesterday.

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 awarded as an own goal by Tajik goalkeeper but Baichung had claimed that 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.

Rabiev is equal 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.