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Acid test as Bangladesh face Palestine

  • Published at 08:39 pm October 9th, 2018
Bangladesh
Bangladesh's Topu Barman (2L) passes the ball during training in Cox's Bazar Tuesday as teammates and assistant coach Stuart Watkiss look on Dhaka Tribune/Md Manik

The return of head coach Jamie Day from one-night stay in the hospital due to sudden heartache boosted the confidence of the side a day before the big game while home conditions and the crowd may provide the inspiration during the matchday while facing a side who are ranked in the top 100 of the Fifa ranking

Host Bangladesh have to face an uphill task to take their recent form into the final of the Bangabandhu Gold Cup after three years when they take on top-ranked Palestine side in the second semi-final at Bir Sreshtha Ruhul Amin Stadium in Cox’s Bazar Wednesday. 

It will also be the first ever match for the men in red and green in the south-eastern coastal city.

The return of head coach Jamie Day from one-night stay in the hospital due to sudden heartache boosted the confidence of the side a day before the big game while home conditions and the crowd may provide the inspiration during the matchday while facing a side who are ranked in the top 100 of the Fifa ranking.

The two sides faced each other three times before. 

Bangladesh hosted Palestine during the group stage of the inaugural edition of the AFC Challenge Cup 2006, which ended in a 1-1 draw, but the former lost the two other matches in the same competition in 2011 and 2013.

The difference between Bangladesh [193rd] and Palestine [100th] in the latest Fifa ranking would matter less, considering the home side’s recent performance against all the higher ranked teams in both the U-23 and senior level.

The organisers got only 15 days to prepare the pitch after last hosting an international match eight years ago during the inaugural Saff Women’s Championship. 

Tuesday's rainfall in Cox’s Bazar worsened the condition of the pitch. 

Day suspects misplaced passes and touches on the new ground would be the order of the day. Day, who was absent from Monday’s four-team pre-semifinal presser and team’s training session due to illness, returned in front of the media sporting a big smile on his face. 

He said he is fine before leading the troop for the final training session Tuesday afternoon.

The English coach admitted once again that the Philippines game made it difficult for him to pick the starting XI for the crucial tie. 

The two replacements in full-back positions – Sushanta Tripura and Rahmat Mia – gave Day more confidence on his defensive force which might come in handy against a more physical and skilled attacking line-up of Palestine.

Midfielder Mamunul Islam is unlikely to recover from injury that he sustained before the last match. 

Captain Jamal Bhuiyan, who said they take no pressure from being the “underdog”, is most likely to return to take charge of midfield. 

Despite the fine form of Nabib Newaj Jibon and Mahbubur Rahman Sufil, the finishing is still a concern.

“The boys are ready for the game. We need to score to win. But it’s going to be tough game,” said Day before adding, “We have to play well again. We have to take our chances when they come along. Even though we lost against Philippines, performances have been very good. Hope we can continue the performance, and also score goals.”

Day fielded a 4-4-2 formation in the group phase matches, but hinted changes before facing the strongest side in the tournament. 

“Palestine are a very good team, very strong side, so probably we have to choose a strategy that’s going to suit us best to get a result from the game. So it might change lately,” said Day.

Palestine head coach Noureddine Ould Ali fielded two different starting XIs in the two group stage fixtures and said it was his strategy to give every player in the squad some game time on the pitch. 

He also reminded Monday that he is preparing the team for the Asian Cup and the Bangabandhu Gold Cup gives him an opportunity to get to know the players better. He also praised the fitness of the Bangladesh players and warned his charges not to take the opposition lightly.