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Boys in blue hope for gutsy final display

sports Updated: Jan 18, 2011 01:35 IST

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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 when they take on South Korea in their last group match here tomorrow.

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 at the Al Gharafa Stadium. It will be an achievement for India if they can repeat their performance tomorrow against Australia and Bahrain.

India had produced better show in the second half of the two matches and even dominated the second session against Bahrain. For India to end the tournament with some respect, they will have to defend well and not repeat the "silly mistakes" they committed against Bahrain in their second match on Friday.

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.

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

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 strikers.

Bhutia set to play a part in Asian Cup
After sitting out of India's first two matches, captain Bhaichung Bhutia will finally be a part of the playing XI as he is all set to play against South Korea tomorrow.

Bhutia has been struggling with his calf muscle injury, which he sustained in mid-September last year. He had consulted the Australian team doctor here besides draining out the blood clots at a local hospital.

Qatar, Uzbekistan through to quarters
Host Qatar reached the Asian Cup quarterfinals for the second time in its history Sunday following a 3-0 victory over Kuwait, and Uzbekistan advanced with a 2-2 draw that sent opponent China home.

Qatar needed a victory against winless Kuwait to ensure it advanced.

Uzbekistan topped the group with seven points, one more than Qatar. China has four points and Kuwait has zero.