New Delhi:Indian football great Bhaichung Bhutia says the country cannot just qualify for the knockouts but also finish among the top two in the group stage of the AFC Asian Cup next year.
India have been clubbed with Thailand, Bahrain and hosts UAE in Group A.
Two teams will qualify for the knockout stages with the four best third-placed teams from six groups also making the cut.
“I am very happy with the group which we have drawn. I feel we have been extremely lucky as we didn’t draw any Asian Superpower — Iran, Japan, Australia and the Korea Republic—in our group.
“Every pot had six teams and from Pot A we avoided all the teams who have qualified for the 2018 World Cup,” Bhutia said today.
The only Indian footballer to have played over 100 international matches, Bhutia said India can make it to the round of 16 with a bit of luck.
“I feel that we can finish among the top two from our group and qualify to the round of 16. I understand it’s not that easy but it’s also not impossible. With a fair deal of hard work and a bit of luck, we can achieve it,” the former captain said.
Speaking about India’s draw in comparison to the one in 2011, the last time the country participated in the tournament, he said, “In international football nothing is easy. But in comparison to the group in Doha 2011 where we were clubbed with the then World Cuppers Australia and the Korea Republic, this looks good, or should I say favourable.
“Not to forget that the other team in our group in 2011 was Bahrain, and they had played the World Cup play-offs from Asia too (for World Cup South Africa 2010).” India were thrashed by their opponents in 2011 and returned home without a point. But this time around, things could be different.
“Physically and mentally we need to prepare ourselves for our best and that always adds to the confidence. Perhaps this is the first-ever time when India are ranked second among the four teams in the group.
“Admit or deny, it’s bound to have a very significant impact on the mentality of the players.
“Just putting in hard work won’t always get you there. You need to have the self-belief and the vision along with it as it can do wonders. The attitude of ‘we can do it’ defines great teams.
“In such tournaments, mere putting in your 100 percent won’t work. You need to put in that extra effort which can sail you through.”
Messi the best in history : Puyol
London: Barca defeated Manchester United comprehensively in the Champions League quarter-finals with Messi scoring twice in the second leg at Camp Nou. He is top scorer in the competition this season with 10 goals and also tops the scoring charts in La Liga, where Barca are virtually assured of a second consecutive title.
Puyol, the ex-Barca captain who won three Champions League titles, praises Messi as a true leader in Ernesto Valverde’s side.
“He is playing at an incredible level,” Puyol told Goal at the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour Presented by Heineken in Lagos, Nigeria.
“For me, he is the best ever player in the history of the game.
“He has shown that season after season and you can see how his game has evolved, all the things he now does. And you can see he’s improving every year with new attributes he has brought to his game.
“He has improved in every way and he is taking a step forward on a personal level. He has always been a leader on the field but now, you can see that he is a leader on and off the pitch.
“He is an introverted person but now you can see that he is leading from the front as the captain of Barcelona.”
Messi has scored an incredible 45 goals in 42 games in all competitions for Barca this season, and has added another 21 assists. They are nine points clear of Atletico Madrid in the league, with only 18 left to play for, and are now favourites to add another Champions League to their collection with a double header against Liverpool in the semi-finals to come.
“It’s been very good in the Champions League and also in all the other competitions,” said Puyol.
“They’re playing really good football and they have the chance of winning everything. Right now it’s great because the best is yet to come this season.
“Barcelona are one of the favourites for the Champions League because there are only four teams left.
PCB decides not to allow cricketers to take their families along during the WC
Islamabad: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has decided to not allow the national team’s players to bring their families along on the upcoming 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup in England and Wales starting on May 30.
The decision has been taken keeping in mind the pressure of the tournament, the board said while adding that the focus of the payers should be on their game during the World Cup.
The board, has mentioned that players’ families can travel to England on their own expense.
Additionally, the board clarified that the players could keep their families along with them during the series against England prior to the World Cup, a private news channel reported.
The cricket team will travel to England on April 23 to participate in the two and a half month long tour including the series against England and the World Cup.
Chief Selector Inzamamul Haq announced Pakistan’s 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup squad which left out experienced fast bowler Mohammad Amir.
Pandya, KL Rahul fined Rs 20 lakh each by BCCI Ombudsman
Mumbai: Indian cricketers Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul were on Saturday handed a fine of Rs 20 lakh each by Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) Ombudsman Justice (Retd) D K Jain for their sexist remarks in a television chat show “Koffee with Karan”.
The BCCI Ombudsman directed the duo to pay Rs 1,00,000 each to the families of 10 constables in para-military forces who have lost their lives while on duty through ‘Bharat Ke Veer App”.
Pandya and Rahul have also been directed to pay Rs 10 lakh each in the fund created by Cricket Association for the Blind (CAB) and for promotion of game for the blind.
All payments need to be made within a month from the date of the order, the BCCI Ombudsman further said.
Jain also instructed that in case the duo fails to deposit the fine within the deadline, the amounts would be deducted from Pandya and Rahul’s match fees by the BCCI.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court-appointed BCCI Ombudsman had summoned Pandya and Rahul for deposition over their controversial remarks on the celebrity chat show.
The two players were earlier in January provisionally suspended by the apex court-appointed Committee of Administrators (COA) for their loose talk on the show.
However, Pandya and Rahul tendered unconditional apologies and the ban on the duo was provisionally lifted pending an inquiry by the BCCI Ombudsman.
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