Bangladesh will start the first Bangamata Under-19 Women's International Gold Cup tomorrow with an eye on the title. The hosts will begin their campaign with a match against Group B opponents United Arab Emirates at the Bangabandhu National Stadium tomorrow in this six-nation invitational tournament -- the first of its kind in Bangladesh women's football.
The match will kick off at 6:00pm. The other team in group B is Kyrgyzstan while Group A features Mongolia, Tajikistan and Laos.
After the group matches, the top two teams from each group will reach the semifinals, which will be held on April 29 and April 30. May 3 will host the final of the tournament, which is where the hosts have their sights.
“This tournament has been organised showing faith on us. We will try to repay that faith. Since this tournament is named after Bangamata, the mother of the Prime Minister, we will keep no stone unturned to win the trophy,” Bangladesh team captain Mishrat Jahan Mousumi told reporters at a press conference organised at the Bangladesh Football Federation house yesterday to apprise the home team's preparations.
Although among the six teams playing in this tournament, Bangladesh are ranked fourth (127th in FIFA rankings), with Laos and Kyrgyzstan currently not having any official FIFA rankings due to not having played enough matches over the past 18 months, the hosts are believed to be one of the strongest at the age-group level.
This tournament is being seen as a platform to regain confidence for women's football following the debacle in the recent SAFF Women's Championship last month where the women in red and green were eliminated from the semifinals and were beaten by finalists India and Nepal by big margins. This under-19 team has all the players from that squad except for striker Sabina Khatun, with the inclusion of three new faces in Shamsunnahar Jr, Sajeda Khatun and Mosammat Sultana.
The team management feels the mistakes the team made in Nepal have been indicated and ironed out, making the current team even stronger.
“We have played two tournaments from February 27 to March 20 [the AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers and SAFF Women's Championship], and there was a week's recovery after that,” team coach Golam Rabbani Chhoton said.
“The girls have been in training since March 28, which worked on various areas of the game including rectifying the mistakes we made in Nepal. So we will play every match with the target of winning. There will be challenges, but we will have to overcome those challenges. Our target is to win and keep the trophy at home,” added the coach, who is charged with guiding all the women's teams from the age-group to senior level.
Bangladesh have never played against their first-match opponents United Arab Emirates -- the highest-ranked team in the tournament at 98 -- at either the under-19 or senior level, but these two countries met quite a few times at the under-16 level, with Bangladesh winning all those encounters quite convincingly. The most recent meeting was during the first round of the AFC U-16 Women's Championship Qualifiers in Dhaka last year, which ended in a 7-0 win for Bangladesh.
The United Arab Emirates, Mongolia and Tajikistan teams were first to arrive for the tournament while the Laos and Kyrgyzstan teams were scheduled to arrive last night. All teams will be present at the official press briefing at a hotel in Dhaka today where the tournament's trophy will also be unveiled.
All the matches of the tournament will kick off at 6:00pm and will be telecast live on RTV and Nagorik TV.