Bangladesh will look to replicate their brave performance against Bahrain when they take on Palestine in their second match of Group B of the AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers in Bahrain today.
The match will kick off at the Khalifa Sports City Stadium in Manama at 7:00pm Bangladesh time.
Bangladesh have so far played 11 matches, including Friday's one against Bahrain, across four editions and they have lost 10 of those matches. The only draw they forced was against India at home in 2015 during the qualifying campaign for the 2016 edition.
Palestine, on the other hand, are the favourites from the group to go through as group champions, exacerbated by their 9-0 thrashing of Sri Lanka on Friday. Palestine, last edition's quarterfinalists, had beaten Bangladesh 3-0 in the qualifying stage in Hebron three years ago.
Hence the Palestinians would be as tough as an opponent, if not tougher, than their first-match opponents Bahrain. With 11 group champions and four best runners-up teams slated to qualify for the final round, a draw in this fixture would still keep Bangladesh's chances of qualifying alive.
Coach Jamie Day gave credit to his charges for their work rate and effort against Bahrain, but conceded that the quality was not there to threaten the opposition. Still, he hopes that the players can better their performance against Palestine in order to have an outside chance of qualifying.
“Palestine and Bahrain are the best teams in the group,” the Bangladesh coach said yesterday. “So, the match against Palestine will be another tough one. But we're up for the challenge. We'll give it our best to hopefully get something out of the game.”
Day said he would be banking on his defence to keep the Palestinians at bay while taking advantage of any mistakes from the opposition.
“We want to be compact to give ourselves a chance of getting something out of the match. And hopefully we can capitalise on the mistakes they make,” he said.
Something Bangladesh will have in their favour though is strong support from the large expatriate contingent in the Persian Gulf state. It remains to be seen whether the players can take inspiration from their supporters so far away from home and eke out a result against the group favourites.