India are the team to beat, but Syria favourites: Houghton


Houghton said there won't be any added pressure on the hosts and the players are ready to defend the title.
"There is no added pressure of being the defending champions. In fact, it is a nice feeling for the boys to come into the tournament as the team to beat," Houghton told reporters here.
But the Englishman admitted that 96th ranked Syria will be the favourites to win the tournament this time. India will open their campaign against Lebanon Aug 19 in the opening match at the Ambedkar Stadium and will face Syria in the last round-robin match Aug 28.
"Syria played quite a few international matches and did well in them to jump up the FIFA chart. They will start as the favourites by virtue of their rankings," Houghton said.
Houghton, however, said that it won't be a concern for the India since they are well prepared for the tournament.  
"The only pressure for us is to make sure whether were are 100 percent ready for the tournament. I can assure you that the boys are well prepared for the tournament," he said.
The chief coach also said that the exposure trip to Barcelona has been a motivational factor for the boys and they have done reasonably well in the practice matches against lower division club teams.
Houghton also said that he will wait a bit longer to take the final call on injured striker Sunil Chettri, who is doubtful for the tournament.
"Chettri's participation in the Santosh Trophy was unnecessary and it will be the main reason for him to miss the Nehru Cup," he said.
The coach also indicated that East Bengal's young striker Subhash Singh may be drafted in the side as a replacement for Chettri.
Houghton said his target will be to take India among top-16 in Asia.
"If India are in the top-16 then it would benefit us when the draw for the 2014 World Cup will be made. Then we might have to play some weaker teams in the qualifying stage, but making the finals will always be tough," he said.
The Fixture:
Aug 19: India vs. Lebanon
Aug 20: Kyrgyzstan vs Syria
Aug 21: Sri Lanka vs. Lebanon
Aug 22: India vs. Kyrgyzstan
Aug 23: Syria vs. Sri Lanka
Aug 24: Kyrgyzstan vs. Lebanon
Aug 25: India vs. Sri Lanka
Aug 26: Syria vs. Lebanon
Aug 27: Sri Lanka vs. Kyrgyzstan
Aug 28: India vs. Syria
Aug 31: Final

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