New Delhi: The success the Indian football team enjoyed during former coach Bob Houghton's tenure will be difficult to match but not impossible, feels veteran striker Baichung Bhutia.

"We can match (those results), can actually do better," Baichung said, before quickly adding, "But, at the same time, what Bob did will be difficult to achieve.

"Our biggest achievement with Bob was qualifying for the Asian Cup (after a gap of 24 years). That's a big thing, playing in the Asian Cup after such a long time," the former skipper of the national side said.

"Being a passionate Indian footballer, I really hope we do better in the near future," he added.

India impressed in new coach Armando Colaco's first assignment, before letting Maldives off the hook to share honours in a friendly at Male on Sunday.

Colaco's biggest test, though, will be the upcoming World Cup qualifier against a strong UAE side.

Baichung, however, is full of optimism.

His belief stems from the senior team's determination to improve and more importantly the under-23 side's spirited display in the Olympic qualifiers against Qatar last month.

Desmond Bulpin's side lost the first leg 1-3 but Baichung felt "the boys were unfortunate" in the 1-1 draw in their home match at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune.

Dropped for the World Cup qualifiers against UAE, a comeback to the national team is on the cards for Bhutia for the upcoming India-Pakistan three-match series in England, as the AIFF is planning to induct some more senior players.

Talking about his baby, United Sikkim Football Club, which finished fourth in its maiden season in I-League 2, Baichung said they have signed five national team players and three foreigners for the upcoming season.

"We have started training on Tuesday and our first goal, as always, is to qualify for the I-League.

(Agencies)