Philippines coach Sven-Göran Eriksson has tipped India to advance to the round of 16 at the AFC Asian Cup, ahead of their crucial game against Bahrain, adding that their 4-1 win against Thailand was the "biggest surprise" of the tournament.
Eriksson, who took England to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup, will see his team play a must-win match themselves, against Kyrgyzstan on January 16 in Dubai, and believes advancement in the Asian Cup will be great for both countries, where football isn't considered the main sport. "It would be very good. Especially when the country's No.1 sport is not football. I hope the whole of India talked about you (India) beating Thailand," he told ESPN.
Eriksson, who admits to not having watched more of Indian football than a few snatches of footage, and the odd goal from domestic football, says he did not expect them to play as well as they did against Thailand.
"In football, you know you can have big luck, [and] you win 1-0. But you (India) dominated the game and you scored four goals. Wow!" he said. "The whole world who saw that match [felt] they were physically good, technically good players. Working hard. And maybe Thailand was....I'm sure they were surprised with what's going on here. And if you are not 100 percent, it's difficult to change to win the game. All merit to India."
If results go their way, India might end up finishing second in Group A, and could possibly meet China in the next round. A country where Eriksson has coached in four of the past six years, across Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen. "That would be great..China vs. India," he says.
Eriksson also felt that while the World Cup domination by European and South American countries was something that would probably not go away in the immediate future, he would want to see countries like India, China and the United States compete with the best in Europe in the next 10 to 15 years.
"World Cup...you shouldn't say this...but unfortunately, it's like the Euro and you put in Argentina and Brazil. That's the teams who can win it. And I hope for football that changes. I'm talking about India, China, United States. Big countries, but football hasn't changed. How many Messis do you have in India if they had the chance to play?
"It's not that India, China and the United States need football, but football needs these three countries. Because it will be even bigger.
"Football needs you."