These are exciting times for Bangladesh football. The Bangladesh national team will rub shoulders against the likes of Australia, Jordan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, at home and away, over the course of
next year, thanks to the joint draw for the 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup Round-2 Qualifiers held at the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.
The draw pitted Bangladesh in Group B, with the aforementioned teams, who are all above Bangladesh in FIFA rankings. The teams will compete according to a double round robin format, and the matches will be held from June 11, 2015 to March 29, 2016. The Red and Greens will play their first two matches at home -- against Kyrgyzstan on June 11 and Tajikistan on June 16 -- before playing away in Perth against Australia, the highest-ranked side of the group, on September 13.
The eight group winners and four best runners-up (total 12 teams) will advance to the final round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, while the 24 next best teams from the preliminary stage of the joint qualifiers will compete in a separate competition for the remaining 12 slots in the 24-team 2019 Asian Cup finals.
Bangladesh Football Federation president Kazi Salahuddin feels that despite being drawn in a tough group, Bangladesh have a great opportunity to earn some valuable experience.
“It's a great opportunity for Bangladesh team and the players to play at this stage against teams like Australia. It doesn't matter whether we lose by big margins. We want to capitalise on this opportunity to get experience,” said the BFF boss, adding that he already asked head coach Lodewijk de Kruif to come to Dhaka within a week, along with the goalkeeping coach and trainer.
De Kruif said that the qualifying campaign would be a tough challenge for Bangladesh. “It's a very hard group with Australia and Jordan as favourites. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are a bit unknown to us, but they are still higher in FIFA rankings. We will have to make a good plan for this challenging job,” said the Dutchman during a conversation with reporters over social media.
Among the group opponents, Bangladesh have never played against Australia, the defending Asian Cup champions and a four-time World Cup participants, and Jordan, who lost against Uruguay in the last play-off for the 2014 World Cup. Bangladesh have won once, drawn once and suffered four defeats against Tajikistan and lost both times they faced Kyrgyzstan.