Bangladesh dream of second round
With only a four-day preparation and despite an unsatisfactory record against their scheduled opponents, the Bangladesh U23 football team is dreaming big and hoping for qualification for the second round of the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.
The desire of playing the 16-team second round was expressed at a press conference at the BFF House hours before their departure yesterday night.
"We expect a good tournament in the Asian Games as all the people are expecting to put good performance and I believe we can qualify for the second round," said national coach Robert Rubic.
Bangladesh, who are ranked 150 in the senior level, have been placed in Group E which also consists of Uzbekistan, United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong. All three opponents are ranked higher than Bangladesh by FIFA.
Uzbekistan, ranked 96, has always comfortably got the better of Bangladesh striking 15 goals in the three matches they have played so far after being separated from former Soviet Union in 1990.
The 99th ranked United Arab Emirates have also struck the same number of goals in four matches against Bangladesh national team.
Bangladesh and Hong Kong are neck and neck in the rankings and the best result for the local booters is a 2-2 draw in the four matches they have played against each other since 1975.
Bangladesh's lowest defeat margin against Hong Kong was 1-0 at Dhaka during the 2006 World Cup qualifiers.
Bangladesh's preparations have not been the best and Croat coach Rubcic has not had the opportunity to have any practice match in a bid to settle his combination. He is further handicapped since he will miss the services of three key players; injured left-back Wali Faisal, Atiqur Rahman Mishu and winger Zahid Hossain for the first match against Uzbekistan on November 7.
Despite that fact, Rubcic is optimistic about a result and said that it depends on the motivation of the players, who have remained together for the last two to three years and were members of Bangladesh's triumph in South Asian Games in February early this year.
"If the players can play together and be serious to win the game, then it may be possible to qualify for the second round," said the 47-year old coach, who took charge of the national team in September.
The six group champions and runners-up as well as the four best third finishers will qualify for the second round in the meet that gets underway from November 7, although the 16th Asian Games will be officially inaugurated on November 12.
"What I can say at the moment is that we are ready for the first match and we are only thinking of the match against Uzbekistan," said Rubcic, who however, has little idea about the opponents.
"We will go with our plans in every match. My strategy is to play quick and fast from the first to the last minute," said the Croat hinting that he was going to field either Towhidul Alam Sabuj or Mithun Chowdhury as the lone striker instead of the off-form Zahid Hasan Emily in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
The national players have been engaged in action since late August through the national camp and then they played the Federation Cup that ended on October 30.
With a hectic schedule, the players looked tired and the national coach operated the four-day preparation with light practice to ensure the players could recover from the tiredness.
"What we need is to keep up the fighting attitude we gained in the last two to three years and if we can show it on the pitch, I believe nothing is impossible," said captain Aminul Haque.
Bangladesh will play against UAE on November 9 before facing Hong Kong in the group last match on November 11.
Aminul Haque, Mazharul Islam Himel, Mintu Sheikh, Rezaul Karim Reza, Ariful Islam, Mamun Mia, Nasirul Islam, Wali Faisal (vice captain), Atiqur Rahman Meshu, Mamunul Islam, Shahedul Islam, Imtiaz Sultan Jitu, Shakil Ahmed, Zahid Hossain, Zahed Parvez Chowdhury, Zahid Hasan Emily, Enamul Haq, Towhidul Alam Sabuj and Mithun Chowdhury.
Officials: Khurshid Alam Babul (manager), Robert Rubcic (head coach), Saiful Bari Titu (assistant coach), Dolilur Rahman (physio) and Mohsin (team attendant).