Houghton responsible for Indian team`s success: Chhetri
Doha: Star striker Sunil Chhetri on Sunday attributed Indian football team`s success in recent years to coach Bob Houghton, saying the country`s appearance in the AFC Asian Cup after a gap of 27 years was entirely due to the Englishman`s efforts.
"Three or four years ago we only heard about the Asian Cup and I`m sure there are players in our team who didn`t follow the Asian Cup, but thanks to our coach we have a chance to be in this competition," Chhetri told reporters.
"It`s because of him that we started thinking positively that we could do this and the most important thing is that we`re not scared."
Houghton`s presence over the past few years has also given the side much-needed confidence, and that is precisely the reason why Chhetri, despite India being clubbed with Asian powerhouses like Australia, South Korea and Bahrain, is not short on confidence.
The India striker, who had a stint at Major League Soccer club Kansas City Wizards in the USA, insisted his side would not be overawed or intimidated by their famed opponents.
"I think four or five months ago, when we learned we were playing Australia in the first match, we did think these kinds of things, there`s going to be Tim Cahill and Mark Schwarzer and all this kind of thing.
"To be honest we did get intimidated. But in the last month or so, whenever we talk about the players, we think about ourselves. This is only about us so as far as the players are concerned, we know what we can achieve and we know exactly where we stand," Chhetri said.
The 63-year-old Houghton who had coached Malmo, China and Uzbekistan has transformed the Indian team since his arrival in 2006, bringing in new players and moulding the team into a fighting unit.
Under him, India won the revived Nehru Cup in 2007 before retaining the Cup two years later, besides qualifying for the Asian Cup by winning the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008.
In the continental showpiece here, however, India are not expected to advance from a group that includes Asia number one Australia, third ranked South Korea and Asian number five Bahrain.
"I don`t know what`s going to happen but we`re here to do our best and that belief we have is because of our coach," Chhetri said.