Doha: Indian football team coach Bob
Houghton has warned title favourites South Korea to guard
against complacency and believed their imposing show in group
stage of the Asian Cup was no guarantee to success in the
knock-out stage of the tournament.
While admiring the impressive form of the South Koreans
in the event, the Englishman cautioned that the teams who
don`t start well sometimes end up winning the championship.
"I don`t think anyone could disagree that Korea will be
one of the real favourites to win the tournament," Houghton
said after his team`s 1-4 defeat to Korea.
"They`ve looked really good in the group. But often it`s
the teams who don`t start well end up winning the tournament.
Japan have hit form, Qatar have qualified and have got home
advantage, Australia were good as well.
"But we have great respect for Korea. I`ve been very
impressed by them and they were very good against us."
The Asian powerhouse will face Iran in the quarterfinals
on January 22 at the Qatar Sports Club Stadium.
South Korea ended their Group C engagements with second-
place finish behind Australia, who finished on top after their
1-0 victory over Bahrain yesterday.
India gave glimpses of their fighting abilities against
South Korea with striker Sunil Chhetri reducing the margin in
the 12th minute of the game.
India were appearing in their first Asian Cup since 1984
and Houghton vowed the country will come back stronger in the
next edition in 2015, having gained rich experience after
playing in the continent`s biggest stage.
"It was a tough tournament, playing three matches in
eight days that too against top sides like Australia and South
Korea. We have played our best, the boys fought till the end
in all the three matches. We can return home with our heads
"The boys have gained rich experience from the
competition. So I think we will come back stronger and give
better performances against the likes of Australia and South
Korea in the next Asian Cup," Houghton said.
The 63-year-old Englishman said he was happy that captain
Bhaichung Bhutia played for some time against South Korea.
"This boy is a great servant of Indian football. He has
played more than 100 international matches for the country in
his more than 16 years of career. He is liked by all his
team-mates and is a big influence on the team. I am happy for
him," said Houghton.
Bhutia, who came in the 78th minute in place of Abhishek
Yadav, played for nearly 15 minutes.