It was a culmination of hard work and dedication, says Houghton

August 14th, 2008 - 12:32 am ICT by IANS  

By Abhishek Roy
New Delhi, Aug 13 (IANS) Exactly a year ago India made a turnaround on the soccer field by lifting the Nehru Cup title at the Ambedkar Stadium here. And Wednesday they took a giant stride by winning the AFC Challenge Cup and qualifying for the 2011 Asia Cup in Doha. It is a big leap for Indian football as they will be playing the continental championship after a gap of 24 years and chief coach Bob Houghton termed his boys’ performance as a “culmination of hard work and dedication.”

“It has been a good performance by the boys against some tough teams. They played very hard .Even the players on the bench did well. It was a popular desire to win.”

The packed Ambedkar Stadium witnessed one of the best performances by the Indian team and the boys rose to the occasion to outclass defending champions Tajikistan 4-1. Delhi boy Sunil Chettri struck a hattrick and skipper Bhaichung Bhutia added one to complete the tally.

“In the first 20 minutes they were determined to win and they showed that by scoring three early goals. But that could have been a problem for us because in such cases the opponents don’t care for anything and they attacked us well,” added Houghton.

The coach lauded Chettri, who scored four goals in the tournament, for the diminutive striker’s ability to go for aerial tackle against big burly defenders.

“I am very pleased with the way Sunil played. He was remarkable and he has scored four goals in 100 minutes. He is honest, brave and dedicated. Chettri never gives up,” Houghton said.

Despite, Chettri’s brilliance one shouldn’t forget the brave work done by goalkeeper Subrata Paul, whose acrobatics saves made it a convincing win for India.

“Subrata had a very good tournament. He showed some consistency, which was never in him before. Subrata has cut out the rashness and become very explosive,” the Briton said..

Asked how was looking at the 2011 Asia Cup, Houghton smiled and quipped “It will start with a glass of wine tonight.”

India have become the fifth team to qualify for the 2011 Asia Cup. Defending champions Iraq, runners-up Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Qatar are the other four teams.

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