More than Myanmar, it is the ground which is troubling Houghton

August 6th, 2008 - 7:02 pm ICT by IANS  

By Abhishek Roy
Hyderabad, Aug 6 (IANS) More than opponents Myanmar, it is the turf at the Gachibowli Stadium that has pre-occupied chief coach Bob Houghton’s mind on the eve of India’s semi-final clash in the AFC Challenge Cup. All throughout the tournament, the Englishman has been very critical of the ground condition and Wednesday was no different. Heavy rains over the last week have spoiled the ground. India’s last league match against Turkmenistan was played on a slushy turf.

Houghton, however, is praying for more rain, which may help to keep the ground soft.

“More than the opponent, the problem will be with the ground. I hope it rains just a little so that the ground is soft. If it dries down and if a roller is used it will be very difficult for the player as the ball will bounce high,” Houghton told reporters here Wednesday.

Houghton said his team is focussing on the semifinal and not taking Myanmar lightly.

“It will be dangerous to think beyond the semi-final. Myanmar has played in different styles in their matches so it will be difficult for us as well,” said Houghton.

“I prefer to take one match at a time. I can say we are no more happy to face Myanmar in the semi-finals.”

Injury problems, though, remains a concern for the coach. Sunil Chettri received a stitch over his eye after getting injured during practice while Steven Dias, Climax Lawrence and N.P. Pradeep are yet to recover fully from their injuries.

“It is Pradeep’s hamstring which is a matter of concern for us. Otherwise, it will be the same team that played against Turkmenistan. But I feel that Pradeep will recover in time and will be fit for tomorrow’s match,” said Houghton.

The coach went on to add that his boys are desperate to win this tournament as it will help them to qualify for the finals of the 2011 Asian Cup in Doha.

“Since the Asian Cup is very far from now, it is very important for us to win the Challenge Cup and avoid playing the qualifiers. For the Asian Cup, it is very important for us to prepare my way,” he said.

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