Girls qualify into Asia's top 8
Bangladesh have sealed a place in the final round of the AFC U-16 Women's Championship after beating main rivals Chinese Taipei 4-2 in the penultimate match of Qualifying Group C at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
The girls in red and green came back from a goal down to notch the terrific victory, which ensured their passage to the final eight where they are set to meet Asian powerhouses such as Australia, Korea and Japan next year.
Despite having a game left to play, Bangladesh's qualification was ensured on head-to-head count as they have beaten both Taipei and Iran, the two teams who have a mathematical chance to equal Bangladesh on points in case the hosts lose their last match against the UAE on Monday.
But given the brilliant form, confidence and resilience of this bunch of girls, a defeat against lightweights UAE -- which will at best take some gloss off their qualification -- is unlikely. The brilliance of the hosts was on full display at the Big Bowl last night as the girls came storming back after conceding an early goal.
With both teams having won their previous three matches by big margins, this game had turned into a virtual final. And it did look like it was going to be a competitive affair when Taipei skipper Yu-Hsuan Su beat Bangladesh goalkeeper Mahmuda with a piledriver of a shot on ten minutes, stunning the 5,000-something crowd into silence.
Taipei had made the better start, with Mahmuda having to make a valiant block to deny Hsin-Hui Lin from point-blank range minutes before the opening goal. But the goal seemed only to have woken up the Tiger in the hosts.
Skipper Krishna Rani proved a handful for the Taipei defence, and her darting runs made way for Bangladesh's first two goals in the space of 12 minutes. The former under-14 skipper was brought down in the box on 25 minutes by Chen Chiao-Yi, who earned a second yellow card in the process. Shamsunnahar stepped up, and despite her feeble attempt, managed to beat the Taipei keeper to her right. Twelve minutes later, Krishna was brought down inside the box yet again, and this time Shamsunnahar beat the Taipei goalie with a powerful strike.
With the numerical advantage, there was hardly any stopping Bangladesh. They kept battering the opposition, with Anuching Mogini hitting the woodwork on 40 minutes before Krishna made it 3-1 with an exquisite chip ten minutes after restart.
The margin was further widened by Marzia from a goal-mouth scramble in the 78th minute before Taipei pulled one back two minutes before time after a scrappy clearance from the hosts, but the goal mattered little and in the end as the hosts celebrated a richly deserved victory and a place among Asia's best.