Doha, Jan 11 (Agencies): Despite losing 0-4 to Australia, India earned respect for their doggedness from their formidable opponents who said Bob Houghton's wards deserved to be in the Asian Cup football tournament, the continent's biggest football event.

Australia's German coach Holger Osieck said though India struggled to keep pace with his boys, they stuck to their game to make it a contest in the opening Group C match and can held their heads high.

"They (India) competed well. They had good discipline and did not crumble under our incessant attack. It was not easy to break down their defence. They knew what they were doing," Osieck, who was assistant to the legendary Franz Beckenbauer when Germany won the 1990 World Cup, said.

"They were slow in reacting when we pushed ahead with speed but I think they will improve with exeperience. They did not disappoint me," said Osieck when asked if he would re-assess his earlier view that India could be a surprise pacakge.

Star striker Tim Cahill, who plays for English Premier League side Everton, said India can hold their heads high as the Australians found it difficult to break their defence.

"It was a tough match. The Indians played very well and we knew that it could be a banana-skin match if we had taken them lightly. We played at our top form and ensured that we did not slip. They kept fighting throughout the match even after we had taken the game out of their hands. They can hold their heads high," Cahill who scored twice, said.

Captain Lucas Neill said India deserved to be in the Asian Cup and they will improve with experience.

"Definitely, they deserved to be in the Asian cup. They defended well and their goalkeeper was impressive. we knew before the match it will not be easy against India and it turned out to be that way only. They made us to be on our toes all the time. We respect them," said the Galatasaray central defender.

Brett Emerton, who plays for EPL side Blackburn Rovers which was recently bought by Indian poultry firm Venky's, said it would be difficult for India to qualify for the knock-out quarterfinals from Group C but they would be tough to beat.

"The way they performed against us I think India would do well against South Korea and Bahrain. It will not be easy to beat them. I wish them luck," said Emerton.