Due to the experience of Bhutan debacle during the pre-qualifiers of 2019 Asian Cup in 2016, a fear of failing again engulfed almost everyone when Bangladesh were placed in the pre-qualifiers for 2022 World Cup due to their lowly FIFA Ranking.
The anxiety apparently increased among the football stakeholders when the men in red and green got Laos, a team who are ahead of Bangladesh in FIFA ranking, in the 12-team pre-qualifying draw. However, shrugging off all the worries, the youthful Bangladesh team successfully overcame the Laos hurdle to qualify for the 40-team World Cup Qualifiers, under the astute guidance of English coach Jamie Day.
Since starting work with Bangladesh team in May last year, the 39-year brought some visible changes in the squad full of young players, who now believe they can win matches and can fight till the last minute with whatever strength they have. Day is a realistic tactician, who applies sensible strategies his charges can carry out on the pitch. Tuesday’s second-leg against Laos was another example of his realistic game plan.
“I think they have shown that Bangladesh is now not an easy opponent to play against and we can now win matches as well,” Day said. “I think young and old ones have improved both on and off the pitch which has helped their performance.”
Even though the football fans are ecstatic over Bangladesh’s qualification for the next round, the performance of the team during the two legs could not quite satisfy the spectators. And the style of football is not expected to change in near future until quality players come out to replace the older ones. Day is logically not going to adopt eye-catching football, instead his focus will be on result-oriented performance over his next one-year tenure.
“We’ll look at some other players not because the ones we have had not done well, but because there are some older players in the squad. Potentially we might look to bring in some younger players in the squad because we want to play for the future. We need experience within the squad, but we have some good young players coming through. It gives me time to look at these younger players and if we need to swap a couple of players, we’ll do that going into September,” said Day, who is leaving for England tomorrow.
Advancing into World Cup Qualifiers meant Bangladesh will get to play eight matches against some of the stronger Asian nations, with the draw scheduled to take place in the middle of July. The coach thinks the group-stage matches will be a good platform for the young players to gather experience.
“Realistically, there will be a lot of better teams in the group. We’ll play like we normally do. I think it will be a good experience for the younger boys who have not had that experience. Mamunul [Islam] has played in Australia, so you have that, but the younger ones – [Mahbubur Rahman] Sufil, Biplo [Ahmed], Rabiul [Hasan] – it gives them an opportunity to play against much better opponents and players that they want to reach that level.
“I think it will be a good learning curve for us and further down the line we can use that experience to hopefully finish not near the bottom, but near the top of the group,” Day said, adding that he is likely to start preparation for September’s World Cup Qualifiers at the end of August after preparing a plan with the game’s governing body soon.