Vastavam web: Indian football great Bhaichung Bhutia says the country can not just qualify for the knockouts but also finish among the top two in the group stage of the AFC Asian Cup next year.India have been clubbed with Thailand, Bahrain and hosts UAE in Group A. Two teams will qualify for the knockout stages with the four best third-placed teams from six groups also making the cut.”Every pot had six teams and from Pot A we avoided all the teams who have qualified for the 2018 World Cup,” Bhutia said today.
The only Indian footballer to have played over 100 international matches, Bhutia said India can make it to the round of 16 with a bit of luck.”I feel that we can finish among the top two from our group and qualify to the Round of 16. I understand it’s not that easy but it’s also not impossible. With a fair deal of hard work and a bit of luck, we can achieve it,” the former captain said. “Not to forget that the other team in our group in 2011 was Bahrain, and they had played the World Cup play-offs from Asia too (for World Cup South Africa 2010).”
India were thrashed by their opponents in 2011 and returned home without a point. But this time around, things could be different.”Physically and mentally we need to prepare ourselves for our best and that always adds to the confidence. Perhaps this is the first-ever time when India are ranked second among the four teams in the group. “Just putting in hard work won’t always get you there. You need to have the self-belief and the vision along with it as it can do wonders. The attitude of ‘we can do it’ defines great teams.