The team that will fly for Thailand’s Chonburi on Thursday morning will have 11 players from the previous edition who are going to be the key strength of the women’s team head coach Golam Rabbani Choton during the tough Group A fixtures against three-time champions Japan, three-time semifinalists Thailand and Australia
A more experienced Bangladesh women’s team is all set to play in the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship for the second successive time with an eye to improve their performances comparing their debut participation two years ago giving initial focus on their opening game against hosts Thailand on September 15 .
The team that will fly for Thailand’s Chonburi on Thursday morning will have 11 players from the previous edition who are going to be the key strength of the women’s team head coach Golam Rabbani Choton during the tough Group A fixtures against three-time champions Japan, three-time semifinalists Thailand and Australia.
Maria Manda, Akhi Khatun, Mahmuda Akhter, Nazma, Anai Mogini, Nilufa Yesmin Nila, Monika Chakma, Mosammat Sultana, Anuching Mogini, Shamsunnahar Snr, Tohura Khatun were not only involved in the 2017 edition but also were in the majority of the competitions Bangladesh age-group teams took part in the last two years. The rest 12 new faces also have experience of playing international matches except Nouson Jahan and Yasmin Akhtar who were only included in the squad but yet to take on the field.
“In 2017, it was our first time in this competition while facing the opponents like North Korea, Japan and Australia but we showed improvement in every game as we were leading Australia till the 78th minute in the last game. The girls have been going through continuous training and involved in many international matches last two years.” said Choton during the pre-tour press conference yesterday informing that there is only one change from the “tough” second round of qualifiers in Myanmar in February-March with Sajeda Khatun returning in place of Ila Moni.
Choton continued, “There was lack of experience last time but this time the girls are now more experienced and improved physically, technically and tactically. I hope this time it would be a different scenario. First match against Thailand is a vital game for us. It will be a competitive game. Pray for us so that we can start with a win.”
Bangladesh girls will play three practice matches in Thailand, two against Chonbury FC women’s team on September 6 and 9 and one against Kasetsart University women’s team on September 11. Choton believed these practice matches would boost their confidence before the start of the tournament.
Senior and youth team’s talismanic midfielder Maria Manda also echoed the same tune with the coach. “We played practice matches against the senior side at home and will play three more practice matches against the local clubs there. Hopefully we will be much prepared before the first game. We want to start the tournament on high note. If we can do well in the first match then we will have a clearer idea about our chances in the tournament.”
BFF’s technical and strategic director Paul Smalley is more realistic about the upcoming challenge. The English said, “We have a talented group here. They have done tremendously well to qualify for this tournament. We have to be realistic about our opponents who also have talented players.”
Smalley added, “Sometimes it’s not bit fair to expect this team able to compete because it’s difficult. The times players need challenging games to get them better playing against better players and better teams but we didn’t have that as we have only been preparing especially in Bangladesh. We are looking forward to face some really tough teams in the tournament.”
Women’s wing committee chairman Mahfuza Akter Kiron said, “This tournament is also a qualification stage for the upcoming U-17 World Cup in India. Instead of three top teams from the last edition, this time only two teams (finalists) will qualify for the U-17 World Cup. Three of our group opponents are strong. We want to make a positive start against hosts Thailand.”
Including the 12 from last edition, there are as many as 18 players in the 23-member squad who will be playing in this competition for the last time due to their age and will be eager to leave a mark there while facing Thailand, Japan on September 18 and Australia on September 21.