A determined and motivated Bangladesh national football team will leave Dhaka for Indian state Kerala today hoping to lift their second SAFF Championship title.
The biggest South Asian football extravaganza will get underway from December 23 with Bangladesh facing defending champions Afghanistan in their opening match a day later.
National team coach Maruful Haque, who took over from Italian Fabio Lopez in little over three weeks before the tournament, is confident of bringing the success.
Bangladesh so far won their maiden SAFF title in 2003 at home. They were eliminated from group stage in the previous edition in Katmandu.
‘Three weeks ago when the Bangladesh Football Federation gave me the charge I set a target of winning the tournament. I don’t see any reason to change that goal,’ Maruf told reporters on Saturday at a press conference ahead of team’s departure.
‘I think is very much possible as we have taken all the preparations both physically and mentally in the last three weeks,’ he said.
Maruf said if Bangladesh players can give 60 per cent of their ability that can be enough for them.
Bangladesh last week defeated Nepal 1-0 in their only preparation match for the tournament, but Maruf said they could not play even with 30 per cent of their potential in that game.
Maruf, the only coach with an UEFA license in sub-continent, said he had conducted a total of 38 sessions at the BKSP and that should be enough.
Maruf termed Bangladesh’s opening match against holders Afghanistan very crucial saying that if they can eke out a positive result from the match, the rest of the tournament will be easy for them.
Bangladesh and Afghanistan have been drawn in Group B along with former champions Maldives and regional minnows Bhutan.
‘I have told the boys that if they can win against Afghanistan in the first match, the job will be half-done,’ said Maruf.
However, Maruf was not completely oblivious of Maldives, who have the ability to win against every side in the tournament and are among the favourites in the tournament.
‘Of course we are aware of the strength of Maldives. In fact alongside Afghanistan they are also our main rivals. We know if we are to progress in the tournament, we must do well against them as well.’
Skipper Mamunul Islam said Bangladesh must give up their defensive mentality if they are to make an impact in the tournament, known as the World Cup of South Asia.
‘The way we play in domestic football it often gets reflected in our performance at international level,’ said Mamunul.
‘In domestic football, we get into the mindset of not conceding a goal after scoring one. We must change that mentality.’
Mamunul, however, promised to remain disciplined, which he said is a prerequisite to win the title.
‘We will do our best in the tournament to become champions. We will be disciplined and we are physically and mentally fit.’
Mamunl kept the SAFF Championship above everything.
‘I want to do my best because this is our main target and I hope others believe in the same way,’ he said.
‘The next generation will also look up to us, so we are bound to give them something inspirational.’
-With New Age input