Bangladesh will start their campaign for the final round of the AFC U-16 Championship when they take on Philippines in the first match of the second round of the qualifiers in Mandalay, Myanmar today.
The match is scheduled to kick off at 2:30pm (Bangladesh time) at the Mandalathiri Stadium.
The four-team group, which also features China -- the strongest team on paper -- and hosts Myanmar, will see two teams progress to the final round.
Last time around, Bangladesh had qualified for the final round by dint of winning the home qualifiers, but due to a higher number of participating teams this time, they are having to navigate through another round of qualifiers.
The girls in red and green, who emerged champions at home in the first round of the qualifiers having scored 27 goals and conceded none, have never faced Philippines at any level in women's football. So they will be wary of the opposition, not just because of the lack of knowledge but also because it is the first match of the campaign.
Coach Golam Rabbani Choton is banking on the experience gathered through year-long training and international matches over the last couple of years.
"Our girls have been playing well in international tournaments over the last few years. They know how to cope with pressure of international matches. Whoever is the opposition, they will play their natural game," Choton said ahead of the match yesterday.
This is a must-win game for Bangladesh because the challenge will only get stiffer when they face hosts Myanmar and then cap it off with a match against China. Unlike the other three teams in the group, Philippines finished second in the group during the first round of qualifiers. So Choton's charges will definitely be looking to pick up all three points from this match.
"We want to move match by match. Since our target is the final round, we don't want to take anyone lightly. Every team is strong. But we have confidence in our players," said Choton.
China will take on hosts Myanmar in the second match of the day at the same venue.