Sunday, February 25, 2024

Bangladesh gear up for Lebanon test

The dream of sealing a place among the Asia’s top 20 teams for the first time is inspiring the Bangladesh national footballers as the 22-member squad started their training at the BKSP for the two-legged World Cup pre-qualifiers second round against Lebanon on Friday.
The first leg will take place in Beirut on July 23 while the return leg will be played a the Bangabandhu National Stadium on July 28.
Bangladesh, who advanced to the second round of the World Cup pre-qualifiers after beating Pakistan 3-0 on aggregate in the first round last month, have a great chance of reaching the final round of the qualifiers for the first time in history with a win over Lebanon.
‘It is a great chance indeed. It may enhance the image of our country. We will follow the instructions of our coach Nikola Ilievsky and will give our best to do that,’ said goalkeeper and captain Biplob Bhattacharjee before leaving for the BKSP.
Not only Biplob, but each and every player of the team is very much aware of it and they are very keen to avail the opportunity.
‘We have to capitalise on the chances, even if we get one. We also have to turn the half-chances into a goal if we want to see us among the best 20 teams of Asia,’ said ace striker Zahid Hasan Ameli, who scored the first goal of Bangladesh’s home match against Pakistan in the first round.
Veteran players Pranatosh Kumar Das, Mohammad Sujan and Waly Faisal who returned to the national side after a long gap and watched the home-leg match against Pakistan from the gallery, observed that team spirit is their best weapon.
‘The team is highly motivated and the players have a good understanding among them which was our main weapon to crush Pakistan last month. Now my job will be to adapt to their rhythm,’ said Waly Faisal, who made his last international appearance in AFC Challenge Cup 2009.
Like Waly, another senior player Pranatosh Kumar who has some idea about Lebanese football, said the unity will be key when we face the Middle-East side.
‘Everything depends on our unity and team combination,’ Pranatosh said.
He played against the top Lebanese club Al-Nijmeh at the Asian Club Cup 2005 and said that most of the players of that team were from the national side.
Sujan also have some idea about Lebanon’s football standard as he had played alongside Pranatosh in those matches against Al- Nijmeh and he thinks it is not impossible to beat Labanon.
‘Al-Nijmeh were not very much ahead of us in terms of technique but they won because they were physically stronger. Bangladesh have improved a lot after that game and now we are in good form. So, the task is not impossible,’ Sujan said.
Like the experienced players the youngsters were also very excited to be a part of the history.
Tauhidul Alam, who got his first national call-up, was not an exception. The 20-year-old boy from Boalkhali in Chittagong got a place in the national team for his outstanding performance in the Super Cup and the recently-concluded Bangladesh League but the striker is not sure of getting a place in the starting line-up as senior and in-form forwards Ameli and Mithun Chowdhury are well established at the position.
However, Touhidul is not bothered about it. He is happy to be in the national team and wants to see Bangladesh beat Lebanon so that he can be a part of history.
Five top-ranked Asian teams – Australia, Bahrain, North Korea, Japan and South Korea – will head the five groups of four teams in the round of 20 where the other 15 teams will join after finishing their second and final round of the pre-qualifiers.

-With New Age input

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