India striker lauds coach Houghton
© AFP

Striker Sunil Chhetri heaped praise on veteran coach Bob Houghton on Sunday, saying India's first appearance at the AFC Asian Cup since 1984 was entirely down to the Englishman. India face the might of Australia in Group C tomorrow, but Chhetri insisted his side would not be overawed or out of their depth.

"Three or four years ago we only heard about the Asian Cup and I'm sure there are players in our team who didn't follow the Asian Cup, but thanks to our coach we have a chance to be in this competition," Chhetri said. "It's because of him that we started thinking positively that we could do this and the most important thing is that we're not scared."

Perennial underachievers India have been transformed under the 63-year-old former Malmo, China and Uzbekistan coach -- to mention just a few of the sides Houghton has managed in a coaching career spanning more than 40 years.

It's because of him that we started thinking positively that we could do this and the most important thing is that we're not scared.
Sunil Chhetri, India striker

He overhauled the squad after his appointment in 2006 and two years later India stormed to the AFC Challenge Cup, winning them a ticket to Doha. But it would be a major surprise if the vastly experienced Houghton were to steer India out of a group that also includes Bahrain and one of the favourites to win the tournament, Korea Republlic.

"I don't know what's going to happen but we're here to do our best and that belief we have is because of our coach," added Chhetri. "I think four or five months ago, when we learned we were playing Australia in the first match, we did think these kinds of things, there's going to be Tim Cahill and Mark Schwarzer and all this kind of thing.

"To be honest we did get intimidated. But in the last month or so, whenever we talk about the players, we think about ourselves. This is only about us so as far as the players are concerned, we know what we can achieve and we know exactly where we stand."