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All set for a gutsy end

sports Updated: Jan 20, 2011 00:59 IST
Press Trust of India

Knocked out of the competition after two heavy defeats during which they showed enough fighting abilities, India would look to end their campaign in the Asian Cup with another spirited display against South Korea in their last group match on Tuesday.

India had lost their earlier two Group C matches — 0-4 against Australia and 2-5 against Bahrain — and it would be a miracle of sorts even if Bob Houghton's boys manage a stalemate against the Asian powerhouse, who have won the title twice.

South Korea, led by Manchester United midfielder Park Ji Sung, are seeking their first title in 51 years — they last won in 1960 — and are the overwhelming favourites against India.

India, who are ranked 144th in FIFA charts as compared to their opponents' 35th place, would look for a spirited fight as they had done in their earlier two games.

Captain Bhaichung Bhutia is expected to play a part in tomorrow's match after missing out in the earlier two encounters due to a calf injury though it is not known for how long he will play at the Al Gharafa Stadium.

"Bhaichung will start on the bench tomorrow and we will see if he can play a part in the game," India coach Bob Houghton said.

Bhaichung's presence is not expected to alter the outcome of the match with South Korea having shown their class with a 1-1 draw against Australia after defeating Bahrain 2-1 in their opening match.

With the likes of Park Ji Sung and Celtic player Cha Du Ri in red-hot form, India can ill afford to commit mistakes in the defence and concede too many goals in the first half, which was the case against Bahrain.

After a spirited show against formidable Australia, the defence had been a let down against Bahrain, committing some unwarranted mistakes without which the scoreline could have been more respectable than the 2-5.

Houghton is unlikely to tinker much with the starting line-up of the game with Bhaichung expected to come in the second session tomorrow. Abhishek Yadav and Sunil Chhetri, who were in fine form against Bahrain, are likely to start as trikers.

South Korea would be looking to level the head-to-head record in the Asian Cup between the two teams, which is in favour of India.

India had beaten South Korea 2-0 in the only match they had played earlier in the competition — in 1964 in Israel. In 1984, the last time India participated, the two sides did not face each other.