Bangladesh have been pitted against Laos in the first round of the preliminary joint qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup as the draw of the lowest 12 nations in the Asian region was held at the AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia yesterday.
The men in red and green, who are currently ranked 188th in FIFA, will play their first match of the double-legged qualifiers against the 184th-ranked Laos on June 6 before playing the second match on June 11 to decide which team will go to through to the group-based qualifying round.
Laos is a familiar opponent for Bangladesh as the two teams played three times before, two of which during the last year. The first time these two sides met resulted in a 2-1 victory for the South East Asians during the 2003 Asian Cup in Hong Kong. The second meeting was a FIFA friendly in March last year in Vientiane where the match ended in a 2-2 draw before Bangladesh beat Laos 1-0 the Bangabandhu Gold Cup in Sylhet in October last year.
Bangladesh team's head coach Jamie Day expressed his satisfaction at the draw, but felt both matches would be tough as the results of the previous three meetings were pretty close.
“I think it is good draw due to the fact that we have played them before. So we know a little bit about them, the boys have played away as well so that they also know the environment in Laos,” Day said over phone from England.
“It will still be very tough as both games [last two affairs] have been very close and could have gone either way. So we need to perform to get the right result over the two legs,” added Day.
The team's veteran defender Tapu Barman is optimistic about Bangladesh producing positive results against Laos as he feels the team is playing good football in recent times.
“It is a good opportunity for us because we can play more matches in qualifying round if we can overcome the Laos hurdle. I think Laos is not as good as we are. If you look back, we drew 2-2 despite trailing by 2-0 goals [in Laos] and then beat them 1-0 in Sylhet,” Tapu said. “If we can perform like we did against them in the last two meetings then Laos will not be a tough hurdle to cross.”
The Abahani defender also believes that 10 days' intensive training would be good enough to face Laos as the players are all in action in the Bangladesh Premier League.
“There is good understanding among the players and a good combination as well, so it is good enough to have only 10 days' training. If we can play a couple of practice matches against club sides or a match against a strong national team, then it will help us have more confidence,” suggested Tapu.
The draw pitted the six seeded teams (ranked 35th to 40th in Asia) against the six unseeded teams (ranked 41st to 46th in Asia) for the first round of the joint qualifiers. The six winners will join the 34 top teams from Asia for the group-based second round of the qualifiers, which will commence in September.