When deciding upon a starting eleven for tomorrow’s 2022 World Cup Qualifier match against India, Bangladesh coach Jamie Day will have the sweet headache of settling on a backline after non-regular defenders Raihan Hasan and Riyadul Hasan impressed during a spirited performance against Qatar last Thursday.
Raihan was included in the 23-member squad following a knee injury to midfielder Masuk Mia Jonny and started against Qatar in place of the suspended Bishwanath Ghosh. Riyadul started in place of fit-again centre-back Tutul Hossain Badsha against the reigning Asian Champions Qatar and impressed all despite a 2-0 defeat at home.
Bishwanath and Badsha are available for selection against India but British coach Day seemed to be in two minds about whether to pick the same eleven that played against Qatar or to revert to the four-man backline fielded against Afghanistan.
“We will have to see but it’s nice to be in a position where we have problems like this,” Day told The Daily Star yesterday.
With first-choice centre-back Tapu Barman being ruled out due to knee surgery before the start of the qualifiers, the backline had been a big concern for Day, who started against Afghanistan with a four-man defence manned by Yeasin Khan, Badsha, left-back Rahmat Mia and Bishwanath. They made hardly any mistakes in their opening match in Dushanbe, although the men in red and green lost 1-0.
Problems of scarcity arose once again before the Qatar match due to Bishwanath’s suspension and Badsha’s injury, but Raihan and Riyadul repaid the faith Day placed on them. Raihan played a dual role in the match with his signature long throw-ins causing havoc in Qatar’s defence, while Riyadul also showed character to keep the Qatari strikers at bay for a majority of the match on a rain-soaked ground.
“The head coach will decide who will star against India but Bishwanath has been playing under Jamie for a long time and I have just entered the squad and played against Bhutan and Qatar. If I am given a chance in the starting eleven, I will be try to give my utmost best,” Raihan said, adding that such competition will definitely help the team get stronger.
Interestingly, both Raihan and Bishwanath hail from Tangail and Raihan inspired Bishwanath to emulate his long throw-ins.
After a long time, competition between players to secure a place in the starting eleven has emerged in Bangladesh football, and Day will certainly be hoping that it spreads to players in other positions.