The Bangladesh team will depart for their AFC U-19 Championship Qualifiers campaign in Bahrain today with hopes of qualifying for the final round, a stage the boys in red and green have not been able to reach for the last 17 years.
Bangladesh, who emerged as champions from a group featuring Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Maldives in 2002, have now been pit against Bahrain, Jordan, and Bhutan in Group E. The 11 group champions, four best runners-up teams and Uzbekistan will feature in the 16-team final round to be held in 2020.
The charges of English coach Andrew Peter Turner will take on Bahrain at the Khalifa Sports City Stadium in Manama on November 6 before going on to face Jordan on November 8. The final group fixture, against Bhutan, will take place on November 10.
“We look forward to the competition, which should be a fantastic experience for the players and all others concerned. We expect to qualify for the next round, which would be a different experience for the boys and something we could be proud of,” said Turner at an official press conference at the BFF house yesterday.
“We are going there with inspiration from the SAFF Championship and to win two of the three matches with good results, which I think should be enough to qualify for the next round,” he added.
The way Bangladesh performed in the SAFF U-18 Championship and a tri-nation tournament in Qatar has seemingly stoked the hope in Turner, who believes that the team’s ultimate failure in the SAFF Championship was unfortunate. Bangladesh had to satisfy themselves with a runners-up trophy following a 2-1 loss to India in the regional age-group championship.
“We kept training after the SAFF Under-18 Championship and the two friendly matches in Qatar so I think our preparations were done extremely well. We kept working hard and the coaching staff have formed a group of competitive players to compete in Bahrain,” the British coach said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t win the SAFF Championship even though we were confident that we could do so. Now, we are looking forward to the AFC competition.”
Bangladesh vice-captain Fahim Murshed is also optimistic about producing good results by utilizing the experience they gained in the SAFF Championship and friendly matches against Qatar and Kuwait.
“We had good results in the SAFF U-18 Championship and played well in the two friendly matches in Qatar. We want to exploit the experience we gained from the two tournaments in the AFC U-19 Championship. I think the two friendly matches against Qatar and Kuwait will help us more against Jordan and Bahrain, who are also equal with Qatar and Kuwait in terms of overall team strength. We want to utilize those experiences to qualify for the next round,” said Murshed.