Bangladesh U23 national football team is ready and raring to take to the field against hosts Bahrain in their first group match of the AFC U23 Championship 2020 qualifiers.
Apart from Bangladesh and Bahrain, South Asian neighbours Sri Lanka and Palestine are also competing in Group B of the qualifiers which kicks-off on Friday at the Khalifa Sports City Stadium in Isa Town, a middle class town located in the north central part of Bahrain.
In the Group opener, Palestine and Sri Lanka will lock horns at 7:00pm Bangladesh time followed by Bahrain versus Bangladesh at 10:00pm Bangladesh time.
Bangladesh goes into the competition with some good preparatory works under their sleeve.
The Bangladesh national side beat Cambodia 1-0 away from home on March 9; that team consisted of many young players who form the U23 side.
Md Rabiul Hasan, who scored the winning goal in that match is also a member of the U23 team.
Following the match, Bangladesh U23 players went to Qatar for a 10-day rigorous training camp where they focused on game related training.
Bangladesh Head coach Jamie Day focused on preparing his team specifically for the AFC qualifiers.
Newly recruited goalkeeping coach Dean May and physiotherapist Simon Maltby worked closely with Briton Jamie to get the best out of the players in the tournament.
Apart from working on the football basics, the players hit the gym and pool session regularly and worked on their fitness with Simon so they can cope with the demanding weather of Bahrain in March.
Dean May focused on preparing the goalkeepers according to the footballing philosophy of Jamie Day.
Moreover, during the 10-day camp, Bangladesh also played two friendly matches against two top flight clubs of Qatar.
In the first practice match on March 15, team Bangladesh picked up a 2-1 victory against Al-Shahania SC.
Then in the second match, the Red and Greens came back to draw against Al-Arabi Sports Club on March 19.
Head coach Jamie Day and his support staff is happy with the preparation of the team.
Even though Palestine (100) and hosts Bahrain (111) rank relatively higher than Bangladesh (192) in the international FIFA rankings (Sri Lanka rank 201), the team believes that nothing is impossible and all the players and staff are determined to try their best to turn this competition into a success.
Talking about the first match, Jamie Day said, “We are looking forward to the game. We need to make sure that everything is organized and everyone does their job correctly.”
Underlining that Bahrain is going to be a tough game, Jamie said, “They are a good side and obviously the host nation. So, they will be favourites to win the game. They can go through the group.”
“We need to play well and work hard and whenever we get our chance, we need to take them. We have a good bunch of young players. Some have played for the national team. I hope that they perform to the levels that we need them to over the next three games,” he added.
To conclude, the Briton said, “We know that we have to play at our best to get through this group or give ourselves a chance of doing that. Yes, we are looking forward to it. But it’s going to be a tough challenge.”
On the other hand, Bahrain head coach Sameer Chammam said that they are determined to win the first game to live up to the expectation surrounding them.
“They people have a lot of expectation; especially for this under-23 group as the team has been together for nearly four years. I have been coaching the team for two years but the group is together for four years. That why we are hopeful of achieving something big in this competition.”
“The preparation has been very good. Not just for this competition. Rather, we have been training and playing friendly competitions for a long time. Even though we had only one week together and two practice matches ahead of this competition my players have been playing regularly for their locals teams and performing well. Most of them are in the regular starting line-up. Besides, three of my players play in foreign leagues. Maybe they do not always start, but they get valuable experience of high quality football,” said Sameer.
Referring to his team’s heavy defeat at the hands of Oman, the Bahrain head coach said, “Yes, we lost to Oman 6-0 but most of the players I started usually play as substitutes. So, they were not really prepared for the task. Besides, I did not have my full players pool to select from for the first practice match against Kuwait.”
Asked about his opinion about Bahrain’s group rivals, Sameer said, “Well I frankly do not know that much about Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as we never played against them. I only have some idea about Palestine as we played against them and Jakarta in the Asian Games.”
“About our first opponents Bangladesh…. well, I think they will be very fast on the field but other than that I do not know what their tactics will be. But hopefully we will be able to get some idea about Palestine and Sri Lanka as they will be playing the first game,” he concluded.
All the teams are prepared for the tournament and will be trying to go through to the finals of the AFC Championship. Bangladesh’s first target will be to do better this time than the previous edition when the Red and Greens could not succeed to win any point from their three group matches.
Bangladesh will play Bahrain on March 22 and then Palestine and Sri Lanka on March 24 and March 26 respectively.
The Bahrain-Bangladesh match will kick-off at the Khalifa Sports City Stadium in Isa Town at 10:00pm Bangladesh time on Friday.
Followers can download the Bahrain TV app from the Apple App Store or Google Play store and watch the match live from the Bahrain Sports 1 channel.