Time to stop going through the motions?
As the 13th edition of the South Asian football extravaganza concluded last night in Male, Bangladesh's football fraternity should buckle up to thoroughly reflect on what transpired in the latest SAFF Championship for the country who last featured in the final of the prestigious tournament 16 long years ago.
Despite initiating an impressive start, Bangladesh once again failed to escape out of the group stage but overall, their performance throughout the tournament drew a bag of mixed responses.
Bangladesh had failed to make it beyond the group stage for the fifth successive editions, and their latest campaign ended on a bitter note, with almost all discussion kept revolving around the penalty decision in their last match against Nepal which threw them out of the final berth.
Now, what can Bangladesh possibly take away from this SAFF Championship?
When the Bangladesh Football Federation shockingly decided to replace English coach Jamie Day to appoint Bashundhara Kings club's coach Oscar Bruzon for the SAFF Championship, hopes had declined to an all-time low. Following the booters' sub-standard display in the Three Nations Cup in Kyrgyzstan last month and considering such a short preparation time to prepare under the new coach, Bangladesh fans could not afford to allocate much room for optimism.
Nevertheless, Bruzon did his best to boost the confidence and morale of his charges. And those who played under him at Bashundhara, knew well that the Spaniard was determined and capable enough to get the maximum from the players on the pitch.
Having diverged from Day's defensive approach, the revamped attacking mindset saw Bangladesh dominate over Sri Lanka in the curtain raiser but it could hardly help them against India and especially against Maldives and Nepal, as the latter three sides also happen to be well ahead of Bangladesh in FIFA Ranking.
Against India, Maldives and Nepal, the lack of technique and its finesse, especially in the central areas, were all there to see as Bangladesh struggled to carry the consistency to the second half of the group stage matches. And the fitness standard coupled with a cramped fixture during the first three games led the booters to commit more unwarranted fouls all throughout the competition.
Looking back at the last three years under Day, Bangladesh backline had remained more or less solid against the superior sides. However, they could only keep a clean sheet against Sri Lanka but overall Bangladesh defended well throughout the tournament, ignoring some costly silly mistakes, which especially led them down against hosts Maldives.
On the attacking front, this edition of SAFF tournament saw Bangladesh score thrice from set pieces -- an evidence of their improvement in this department.
And promising talents, the likes of goalkeeper Anisur Rahman Zico, forward Suman Reza, right-back Arafat Yeasin and midfielder Biplu Ahmed -- were among the positive findings and the onus is on the team management to nurture them to prevent the cases of derailed prospects.
And as far as the stamina and effort on the field was concerned, except for the match against Maldives, Bangladesh supporters can find optimum satisfaction, if not pleasure.
Even though Bangladesh threatened their opponent somewhat in the set-pieces, the penetrative ability from the open-play left a lot to be desired. Composure in the attacking third around the opponent box was found wanting, which has been a recurring theme of the national team's playing style over the years, as indicated by their abysmal ranking.
Furthermore, unforced missed passes had cost Bangladesh dearly during defensive transitions, as was evident during the pivotal incident that saw goalkeeper Zico sent off against Nepal. Also against Maldives, the lack of precision in passing had brought the downfall for the men in red and green.
Moving forward, now it is high time that Bangladesh team management sincerely addresses aspects of their game and avoid finding stop-gap solutions for the betterment of the national team in the long run before things go beyond repair.