Despite an emphatic 3-0 win over Pakistan in the first leg of the World Cup pre-qualifiers, the Bangladesh booters kept their feet firmly on the ground before flying to Pakistan early today morning to play their second leg match at Lahore on July 3.
Only a draw, even a loss by less than a 3-0 margin against Pakistan will propel Bangladesh into the second round of pre-qualifiers against Lebanon to be held on July 23 and 28. And with that in mind, Bangladesh left the country determined to put up their best on foreign soil to qualify for the next round.
After keeping their unbeaten record intact on home soil against archrivals Pakistan, the booters looked relieved in the hotel on Wednesday’s night and they celebrated the birthday of Macedonian coach Nikola Ilievski’s son.
But they were more realistic in their assessment of their second leg match.
“Our first mission was completed but the second mission is still left and we are now focused on our second mission though we know it well that Pakistan will try to avail the home advantage but we are also ready to prove ourselves on their home soil,” said skipper Biplob Bhattacharjee adding that their first target would be score at least one goal away to keep them ahead.
“Winning the first match was a relief for us and we grew in confidence but there is no opportunity to be complacent and we have to concentrate on the second match like we did in the first one,” said the veteran goalkeeper adding that they do not want to dishearten the nation after showing a ray of hope at the home ground.
Bangladesh have a good record on Pakistan soil after winning three out of five matches that they have played there since 1982. Bangladesh have even won their last two meetings on Pakistan soil in the SA Games and Asia Cup qualifiers.
Prolific striker Zahid Hasan Emily, who spent most of the season consigned to the Sheikh Jamal bench was the wrecker in chief with a fine performance and a goal after just 36 seconds. And he is now brimming with confidence ahead of this second match.
“To be honest, I finally managed to sleep well after scoring which is something I was not used to doing in most of the league,” Emily said. “I think we have proved that we are better than Pakistan. We are eagerly waiting for the away match and I believe we will play better than in the first match.”
However, playmaker Mamunul Islam believes the away match would be a challenging one for them and they would have to perform better to get a result.
Striker Mithun Chowdhury, who set Rezaul Karim through for the third goal during the home match, deferred the notion of Mamunul saying, “Pakistan will be under pressure for win and we will avail chances on the counter attack.”
Macedonian coach Ilievski however looked a bit worried with the away match and he believed that the pre-qualifiers would have been over before the second leg match had his boys struck one more goal on Wednesday.
Ilievski also rated Pakistan as a better side with tall physique and he believes Bangladesh might face problems through both flanks.
Asked whether his concept on the local footballers have been upgraded after the first match, Illievski said, “Now it is upto 35 to 40 percent and I think it will be eighty to 100 percent after watching them in two free flowing matches.”
-With The Daily Star input