• Tuesday, Oct 19, 2021
  • Last Update : 06:27 am

Saff final: So near yet so far

  • Published at 12:45 pm October 14th, 2021
Bangladesh football team line up for photographs prior to their Saff Championship match against Nepal in Male Wednesday BFF

A post mortem of Bangladesh’s performance in Saff

Bangladesh had a fabulous chance of reaching the final of the Saff Championship, the top football tournament of South Asia, after 16 years but tragically got eliminated from the group stage once again. 

The men in red and green had to win against Nepal in their final group stage match, which became a virtual semi-final, and were leading the game up to 86 minutes but a controversial penalty decision shattered their dream yet again. 

The decision was harsh for the side, which were playing with 10 men after another controversial decision of a red card to their goalkeeper 10 minutes ago, but poor refereeing was not the sole reason Bangladesh bid adieu from the group phase for the fourth consecutive time.

Despite the disappointing outcome, Bangladesh may feel a little unlucky as they lost just one match and got eliminated, and they can take the positives along with the disappointments.

Probably it is high time to do a post-mortem on the tournament. 

Lack of finishing

The lack of finishing has been a major problem for the national team over the years.

The Saff Championship saw no improvement as the side scored just three goals in four matches.

To make things worse, two of them were scored by defenders - central defender Topu Barman from penalty and full back Yasin Arafat against India - while Suman Reza was the only forward who scored. 

Suman however, missed some opportunities against Nepal, showing the inability of Bangladesh to score goals. 

This was also evident in the first game against Sri Lanka, the lowest ranked side of the tournament, as Bangladesh enjoyed possession but failed to convert and only had to depend on a rather dubious penalty decision. 

Eleta Kingsley, the Nigerian-born striker, who got Bangladesh passport earlier this year, was expected to feature for the side but it was unclear whether the board failed to gather proper permission for him playing under Bangladesh flag or it was the disinterest of Oscar Bruzon, national team’s and Kingsley’s club Bashundhara Kings’ coach, that kept him away from the final squad.

Many believe the striker, who showed his goal scoring prowess over the years in domestic circuit, could solve Bangladesh team’s main problem at least momentarily. 

But one thing is for sure - Bangladesh must find better strikers in future to get international success.

Bruzon and his boys seemed over aggressive

Bruzon got the national team’s responsibility on interim basis just around a week before the tournament and the most successful coach in the domestic arena was expected to spark his charges.

He indeed invigorated his players but at times it looked like they were over aggressive.

As many as 15 yellow cards and two red cards were received by Bangladeshi players in just four matches, clearly depicting a charged up team lacking discipline. 

Lack of concentration 

The side did a commendable job in defence time and again despite the coach deploying high line, but momentary lack of concentration caused huge damage.

Topu, who has been brilliant throughout the tournament, allowed experienced Indian striker Sunil Chhetri space that brought a goal, while in the final match, Sohel Rana's unnecessary back-pass resulted in a match changing red card for goalkeeper Anisur Rahman Zico, who was probably the best player for Bangladesh in the championship.

Poor refereeing

Having said everything, one must feel Bangladesh were in the receiving end of some poor refereeing and the lack of Video Assistant Referee technology in such a competition is not satisfactory.

However, one may say, the referee was perhaps carried away with the subtle dive of the Nepal striker for the penalty and the disciplinary record of Bangladesh side did not help them either.

Lack of consistency

Over the last few years, Bangladesh team have improved their stamina and showed the mindset of comeback on several occasions.

Probably the players get most inspired when they face India, the strongest side as per ranking, and it was seen once again in this tournament as they made a brilliant comeback with just 10 men.

However, this mindset was often lacking and without that the country’s football has no chance to thrive forward.

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