After a morale-shattering 9-0 drubbing by North Korea in their opening AFC U-16 Women's Championship game on Monday the Bangladesh girls will brace for another rough ride when they take on Japan at the Institute of Physical Education Stadium in Chonburi today.
The Japan fixture will be as challenging as the North Korea one, where the inexperienced Bangladesh girls had a mental breakdown and failed to put up any fight against one of the top age-level teams in world football.
And ahead of the match against Japan, who thumped Australia 5-0, the effort from the team management was not necessarily to tell the girls to play their natural game but a serious mentoring so that they could get over the shock of a demoralising yet expected defeat.
On the field, the coaching staff worked hard on how to thwart the attacks from Japan in yesterday's one-hour training held some 26 kilometres away from team hotel. The focus was on the defence organisation, which was vulnerable against North Korea, and the motto was understandably damage limitation.
Bangladesh are likely to field five defenders with tall Akhi Khatun set to return to her previous position as central back from the midfield, paving the way for Monika Chakma to play as midfielder while number one goalkeeper Mahmuda Akter is likely to replace Ruksana Begum, who made a few fumbles against North Korea.
Meanwhile, the girls are taking inspiration from their Japan visits in the build-up to the main event when they played about 10 practice matches against different academies, age-group and school teams. But their main focus is not to commit the mistakes they made against North Korea.
“We made a few mistakes in the opening match against North Korea. Japan are as strong as North Korea but our target is not to commit the same mistake. It is true that we played very well in the qualifying phase but playing against top teams at this level is completely different. But we will definitely try to play our natural game against Japan,” said midfielder Misrat Jahan Mousumi after the training at Institute of Physical Education Centre in Chonburi.
Coach Golam Rabbani Choton said that they were trying to motivate the girls to play the way they have been playing.
“We wanted the girls to play their own game against North Korea but they could not do that. We want them to play their own game against Japan who we know will come hard with their world-class performance”, said Choton.
Bangladesh lost to Japan 24-0 in the inauguration edition of the AFC U-17 Women's Championship in 2005, which now has turned into a U-16 event. The biggest fear for Bangladesh this time is that Japan will have an eye on goal advantage to stay on top of the group.