Monday, January 10, 2011

India vs Australia 13:15GMT

The Socceroos went into Asia's showpiece competition, their first after switching to the Asian Football Confederation, as strong favourites to claim the title on the back of a strong 2006 World Cup and boasting a squad laden with top-class talent.
However, Tim Cahill's injury-time equaliser salvaged a disappointing draw in their opening game against Oman before Graham Arnold's side went down 3-1 to Iraq.
Victory over Thailand saw them make the quarter-finals, where they went out on penalties to a Japan side they had beaten 12 months previously in Germany, leading to a barrage of negative headlines.
Galatasaray defender Neill stressed the lessons from that experience will stand Australia in good stead in Doha when they play India at Al Sadd Stadium.
"The previous tournament was disappointing for us. The negativity and the experience from that we've turned to a positive and used it to our advantage now," Neill said.
"Our preparation has been extremely good and thorough, our mindset is to take it game by game. Every team goes into the tournament wanting to win it and in the back of our mind we still are in this tournament to try to win it but the first game is India and that's all we'll concentrate on."
New boss Holger Osieck has not had much time with his full squad prior to the month-long tournament in Qatar on account of England's hectic festive programme, but the German is confident they are fully prepared for their Group C opener against India.
"A few weeks would be ideal but we haven't started from square one," Osieck said.
"It was important that everyone turned up healthy and in good physical condition. Some of the boys from England had a tough schedule over Christmas, we know that, but they came into camp with no problems while the boys from Australia also looked pretty sharp."
For India, a near-impossible task has been made even harder because veteran Baichung Bhutia is ruled out with a calf injury while fellow striker Sushil Kumar Singh is suspended for the opening two games following a red card against North Korea in last year's AFC Challenge Cup.
"Everybody who plays against Australia in this tournament will have great respect for them, they're a good team, a very experienced team. I could name you five players who have collectively played more than 1,000 games in the Premier League in England," said India boss Bob Houghton.
"There's no other country playing in this tournament that would have that pedigree. They've still got to get that together and I'm sure they will, I would think they're the favourites to win the tournament."
Ranked 142nd in the world, there are some who have questioned India's direct entrance into the Asian Cup due to their 2008 Challenge Cup win but Houghton was quick to defend his side's participation.
"We can justify our presence because we've won the AFC Challenge Cup so it's an automatic qualification," added the Englishman.
"So we don't have to justify our place here, we have qualified. If you wish to challenge the AFC's decision to put the winners into this tournament, that's not a question for coaches. We will see how we do."

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