Doha: After sitting out of India`s first two matches, captain Bhaichung Bhutia will finally be a part of the playing XI in the Asian Cup football tournament as he is all set to play against South Korea in inconsequential last group match.
Bhutia has been struggling with his calf muscle injury, which he sustained in mid-September last year. He had consulted the Australian team doctor here besides draining out the blood clots at a local hospital.
"Bhaichung has not played for a long while. He is a very good player. He will start at the bench tomorrow and we are hoping that he gets some time in the match," coach Bob Houghton said at the pre-match press conference.
He said though South Korea are one of the favourites to win the tournament, his boys will try to play their best so that they bow out of the tournament with their heads held high.
"From India`s perspective, we are already eliminated from the tournament but still tomorrow`s match is very important for us. We have qualified for the Asian Cup for the first time in 27 years. Our performance here will have an impact on how Indian football moves ahead in future," he said.
"The AFC and FIFA are keen to raise the profile of Indian football and we want to do well in the tournament. We want to end the tournament with our heads held high.”
"South Korea are a strong team and after watching their match against Australia, which was of very high quality, I think they are one of the favourites to win the title. We will try to play our own game and we are looking to be as competitive as we can against them," he said.
Houghton said his strategy was to play in the same way against Australia and Bahrain by maintaining the shape and not giving up.
"We kept going even after 0-3 and 1-4 down in the first half against Australia and Bahrain. We want to play in the same organised way, keeping the shape and not giving up," said the 63-year-old Englishman.
Centre back Gouramangi Singh, who scored a goal against Bahrain, said his team-mates were not overawed by the reputation of their opponents and they hope to give a good account of themselves tomorrow.
"We are not overawed by the reputation of our rivals. We are at the biggest stage of Asia after a long time. We want to show we can compete at this platform, only thing we need is playing in more such tournaments, more international friendlies," he said.
"We have given a good account of ourselves so far. We want to do well against the South Koreans. Of course, we have conceded too many goals in the opening session in the two matches we had played. We hope to improve on that aspect," said Gouramanagi.