Eyeing a good show
Bangladesh national hockey team will leave for Malaysia tonight to play two practice matches as they target a top-three finish in the Hockey World League (Round-2) to be held in Singapore from January 17 to 25.
The 18-member squad, which trained for more than 40 days in BKSP under head coach Gobinathan Krishnamurthi, will play against Malaysia U-21 team tomorrow and Malaysia A the following day before playing their last warm-up match against Oman on January 15 in Singapore.
Three teams from the eight-team group will qualify for the World Hockey League's third round, and with players reportedly in good fitness level and three practice matches lined up, the team's assistant coach Mamunur Rashid believes they have a chance of reaching that stage, which they failed to do in their last attempt.
“The players have improved their fitness considerably in the 40-odd days of training so that they will be able to play in the same pace for four quarters, which was not the case during the Asian Games in September,” said Mamun, before running his team through their paces for the last time at the Maulana Bhasani Hockey Stadium yesterday afternoon.
Mamun believes that the pool matches will be vital and if they can win at least one of the three matches, their chances of going through to the semifinals will be higher.
“In Pool B, Bangladesh (30) have Japan (14) and Poland (18) who are above us in ranking while Mexico (35) are below us. Even though we don't know much about Mexico, I think we can beat them. If we can do a positive result against another team, we will get a relatively weaker opponent in the quarterfinals,” opined Mamunur, who has 12 members from the U-21 team he coached recently, in the 18-member squad.
The format of this league has been prepared in a way that the pool matches will be played to decide the standings, based on which the quarterfinal opponents will be decided. If Bangladesh finish third in the pool, they will play against the second-placed finishers of Pool A, which comprises Malaysia, Ukraine, Oman and Singapore. If Bangladesh finish fourth in pool, they will be up against the top finishers of Pool A.
Ace forward Russel Mahmud Jimmy, who returned to the national fold along with Imran Hasan Pintoo and Kamruzzaman Rana, after serving a one year suspension, was happy with his fitness and that of his teammates.
“The lack of match practice only matters when you have lack of fitness. We are in good shape and I think that will help us, both the senior players as well as the youngsters, to perform well,” said the veteran, who was named the best midfielder of the Hockey World League (Round-2) in Delhi in 2013.
Khorshed, Sarwar (VC), Milon, Nippon, Shitul, Chayan, Ashraful, Asim (GK), Romman, Rezaul, Mimo, Niloy, Krishno (C), Koushik, Jimmy, Rana, Rimon, Pintu.
Bangladesh v Japan Jan 17
Bangladesh v Mexico Jan 18
Bangladesh v Poland Jan 20