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Houghton focused on bigger picture

India coach Bob Houghton is hopeful his side's participation at the Asian Cup will prove a turning point in the development of football in the country.

The Indians tackle Bahrain at Al Sadd Stadium tomorrow hoping to keep alive their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals.

It is the first time in almost three decades that they have participated in the Asian Cup and Houghton hopes the increased international exposure for the country will encourage the All Indian Football Federation to provide increased backing in improving the standard of football in India.

"We hope that the Asian Cup will be a watershed for Indian football,'' said the 63-year-old Englishman. "We hope the fact we've got here will make people sit up and realise how great it is to be in a continental tournament.

"The next tournament starts in June, with the qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup, so that's the next thing on the horizon. But we're realistic and we're thinking a bit further down the road before we can think about qualifying for a World Cup.''

Despite a battling second-half performance, India lost their opening Group C game at the tournament 4-0 to Australia and will need a positive result against Bahrain if they are to avoid the prospect of an early flight home.

"We must not underestimate Bahrain in any way, as I think it is fair to say that for the last 10 years they have been the fifth best team in Asia,'' added Houghton. "It is a big game for us and we need to get into that mental frame where we can go out and play as we did in the last game and achieve a good result.''

Bahrain coach Salman Sharida is hoping to have some good news on the injury front with skipper Salman Isa almost back to full fitness following a leg injury.

The 33-year-old failed to win his race to be fit for Bahrain's opening game of the tournament against South Korea, which the West Asians lost 2-1. But Sharida is more optimistic that Isa will play some part tomorrow.

"Salman is recovering now,'' he said. "He took part in our last training session so his participation against India depends on his condition. At the moment there is about an 80% chance that he will play but we will wait until after our next training session to make a final decision.''


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