India skipper Bhaichung Bhutia praised the All India Football Federation (AIFF), saying it's on the right track to develop the sport. "For the first time, we now have some five age-group teams, one of which is training in the USA and another playing in the I-League," he said on Monday.
About the AIFF organising as many friendlies as they did ahead of the Asian Cup, Bhutia said: "I would tell AIFF to use all the FIFA dates (days listed by the world body for international matches). On that hinges our rankings. But it is imperative that we prepare well for those internationals."
Bhutia also felt India's performance (three losses with 13 goals against and three for) wasn't bad. "Match stats showed we ran like or more than South Korea and Australia. Maybe we showed too much respect in the first half. Also, how about highlighting the positives like Gouramangi (Singh) scoring a goal in this tournament after 47 years, (Sunil) Chhetri scoring twice, Subrata's (Pal) performance?"
Bhutia said he stuck with the squad despite a protracted calf muscle injury as "the team lost friendlies badly and was down psychologically. It would have been easy for me to pull out then but as captain what message would I have conveyed to the squad?"
Might miss Challenge Cup qualifiers
The Indian skipper may miss the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers scheduled for March as he has been advised rest for two-three months.