Bahrain, India bid to keep Asian Cup hopes alive

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DOHA: A tough draw meant that India and Bahrain were both given little hope of reaching the Asian Cup quarterfinals, but they still have everything to play for in their encounter on Friday.

India, appearing at their first Asian Cup since 1984, were thrashed 4-0 by Australia in their Group C opener, while Bahrain went down 2-1 to the Socceroos’ fellow pre-tournament favourites South Korea.

It means neither side can afford to lose when they meet at the Al Sadd Stadium, but Bahrain coach Salman Sharida believes there will be more twists and turns in the road before the group phase reaches its conclusion.

“Some teams might win in the first match and lose in the second, and vice-versa,” he said. “This is football.”

On his opponents, he added: “India are organised and have a good defence and they are among the best 16 teams in Asia.”

Bahrain agonisingly missed out on qualification for the last two World Cups at the play-off stage and finished fourth at the 2004 Asian Cup.

However, despite their pedigree — and the 51 places that separate the two sides in the world rankings — Sharida insists they will not be thinking about racking up a cricket score against India.

“The Indian team is very well-organised and limited the danger created by the Australians in the second half,” he said.

“We are only thinking of winning and only when we are winning will we think about how many goals we can score.

“We have confidence in our players and we have no choice but to win. The win is the important thing but we will try to take every opportunity we have.”

Sharida admitted he would consider making “one or two changes” for the game and said skipper Salman Isa would need to undergo a pre-match fitness test on his leg muscle injury.

India coach Bob Houghton lauded Bahrain’s consistency on the international stage over recent years.

“It’s easy to motivate yourselves to play Australia, they are the number one team in Asia,” said the Englishman.

“But we shouldn’t underestimate Bahrain. At the last two World Cups, they’ve been the fifth team in Asia, so I think you could argue that they are the fifth best team in Asia over the last 10 years.

“So it’s a big game for us. We hope we can get ourselves back into the mental framework and work as hard as we did in the last game and achieve a good result.”

India were without 34-year-old captain and record goalscorer Bhaichung Bhutia in the loss to Australia due to a calf injury and Houghton confirmed that he would not figure against Bahrain.

“With Bhaichung, I don’t think he can take part in this game,” said Houghton. “We just hope he might be able to get fit for the game against (South) Korea.”

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This post was submitted by Mudit Agrawal.

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