Hosts Bangladesh are looking to book a place in the final of the Bangabandhu Gold Cup, but standing in their way are Burundi in the second semifinal at the Bangabandhu National Stadium, with the match scheduled to kick off at 5:00pm today.
Out of the five previous editions of this tournament, the men in red and green have played in only one final, which was in 2015. The hosts had to be content with a second-place finish behind champions Malaysia under-23 side that time while they fell at the semifinals stage of the last two editions, losing 1-0 against Bahrain u-23s in 2016 and 2-0 against Palestine in 2018.
Now they are on the verge of final again, but Burundi, ranked 151st in FIFA, could spoil their hopes, especially with the home side having to field a makeshift defence in absence of two experienced centre-backs -- fever-hit Yeasin Khan and suspended Tapu Barman.
Bangladesh coach Jamie day thinks, despite the challenges facing them, they can get the better of the East African side.
“Hope so [winning the semifinal]. That is the aim tomorrow. If we can reach the final that will be a fantastic achievement for us. We reached the semifinal by performing well against Sri Lanka and I am proud enough of the boys. The task is now to get into the final, so we hope for the best. The boys are confident and looking forward to the game,” Day said at a pre-match press conference at the BFF house yesterday.
The 40-year-old coach believes whoever comes in centre-back position has to help the team keep a clean sheet like they did against Sri Lanka.
“It [absence] made it harder because we lost defenders, but again we had new midfielders coming in for the Sri Lanka game and did very well. We have faced difficult situations throughout the tournament and we have dealt with that. We have to accept the situation and do the best so we can move on. It’s a loss losing Tapu but we have players in the squad who can play. There is enough time to prepare, so we will decide the name before the game. Hopefully we will get tactics and performance right to win the game,” said Day.
The coach is likely to play experienced Raihan Hasan along with young Riyadul Hasan in centre-back positions, with Rahmat Mia and Bishwanath Ghosh playing as full-backs. There may be other changes, with fit-again captain Jamal Bhuiyan coming back while the home side may go back to a conservative approach, with Matin Mia playing as a lone striker.
On the other hand, Burundi have earned the tag of the best attacking force after having scored seven goals in two matches despite conceding the lead against both Mauritius and Seychelles. However, Burundi looked out of shape and disorganised in defence, and Bangladesh will look to take advantage of their opposition’s defensive vulnerability.
Burundi coach Joslin Bipsubusa, though, warned the home side hinting that he could bring a change in strategy.
“It’s all about tactic. If you saw the first and second game, we used two kinds of tactic but when we will play against Bangladesh, you will see a different tactic with a solid defence,” Joslin said. “We are prepared for the semifinal. We know what tactic Bangladesh are going to use. We are confident of beating them because it is not the first time Burundi are going to face the home team. We have experience of how to manage the home side, who are always strong on their home ground, therefore we know how to play against Bangladesh.”