AFC win a prize for hard work: Houghton

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> The Indian coach marked out hat trick hero Sunil Chhetri as the star of the future and said it has been a good year for the team.

Updated: August 16, 2008 10:24 IST
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New Delhi:

National coach Bob Houghton on Wednesday termed India's AFC Challenge Cup victory as culmination of a determined effort by his charges and football establishment to reach the Asian elite stage.

By winning the Asia's second tier tournament after a 4-1 thrashing of defending champions Tajikistan, India qualified for the 2011 Asian Cup and Houghton said his charges were the deserving winners.

"It has been a good year and tonight is the culmination of a long period of preparations. It was possible by the hard wok and desire to win by the boys and no doubt the support by the AIFF. The boys deserve to win," he told reporters at the post-match press conference.

"It was a good team effort, there were also some good individual efforts. It was one of those performances in which a determined group of players almost finished the game in the first 25 minutes against a strong opponent," he said referring to India taking 3-0 lead by the 23rd minute.

The 60-year-old Englishman picked Sunil Chhetri, who scored a hat-trick, as India's star for the future.

"I said there were good individual performances and Chhetri was one of them. He is a remarkable player and future star for India.

"He scored India's lone goal against Myanmar in the semifinal and another three today. In the last 100 minutes he has scored four goals, that is fantastic."

Houghton also praised the AIFF for supporting the team by sending them to Portugal and for arranging friendlies against Chinese Taipei and Malaysia as part of preparations for the tournament.

"I want to thank the much maligned AIFF for arranging the Portugal tour which has been really important for the victory today. We had also friendlies against Malaysia and Taipei before the tournament," he said.

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