With the aim of gathering experience and no realistic expectation of qualification, the Bangladesh U-23 team are all set to begin their AFC U-23 Championship 2018 Qualifiers campaign with the inaugural Group E match against Jordan on Wednesday.
The game kicks off at Dura Stadium in the Palestinian city of Hebron, situated in the south of West Bank, at 7:30pm, Bangladesh standard time.
Like many of his players, this will not only be England-born Australia head coach Andrew Ord's first assignment as Bangladesh tactician but also his maiden game as the boss of any national team.
Despite their inexperience, Ord recently expressed optimism of winning at least one match in the Qualifiers.
“Of course it (win) is possible or else, there is no point in entering the tournament. What is certain is that we will need to be at our best, play as a team and need that slice of luck to go our way at times. We would love to dream and say we can achieve great things and there is always hope in football. That's why it's such a popular game,” said Ord.
Bangladesh have never won a game in this competition but earned a goalless draw against neighbour India in the last edition, held in Dhaka last year.
They lost by the identical scoreline of 4-0 against Syria and Uzbekistan in the other two matches.
Ord’s first opponent is one of the Asia powerhouses, Jordan, who are also one of the favourites from Group E.
The games against the other two opponents are also going to be tough for the young Bengal boys as they will face Tajikistan and Palestine on Friday and Sunday respectively.
“The first match of a tournament is always important and there will be pressure on Jordan to qualify as group favourite so maybe they will be complacent or nervous and we can take advantage,” said Ord.
“The team are determined enough to keep a clean sheet. Let's be under no illusions though. Everybody need to rise to the challenge and bring out the best in themselves,” he added.
The U-23 team left Bangladesh on July 9 and went to Kathmandu to play a friendly against their Nepal counterparts.
They then left for Qatar's capital Doha for a three-day camp, including another friendly against the Qatar Olympic team on Friday.
“We have reached a point where the majority of the players have played at least 70 minutes in a game so they should be ready to go to the next level and play for 90 minutes.” said Ord, adding that he has already finalised his starting XI for the Jordan match.
He continued, “We have worked on being able to press teams high up the pitch but due to our physical state, that is not going to be possible for the full game. We also have worked on being compact and tight defensively so we can play two different ways during the match.”
Meanwhile, experienced campaigner and captain Sohel Rana said, “We have played two friendlies against Nepal and Qatar before coming here. As a side, we are more confident and well prepared now. We are trying follow the coach's directions and do well in the tournament.”
The U-23 team was formed only last month following a trial comprising 54 players among whom some promising footballers failed to make the final squad due to injury and lack of fitness.
Jewel Rana had to leave the squad owing to groin injury after the Qatar friendly with Mohammad Ibrahim replacing the forward three days ago.