The last time the two sides faced each other was in a 2-2 draw during a Fifa friendly in Goa in 2014
Two of fiercest football rivals in South Asia, Bangladesh and India will play each other after five years and after 34 years in Kolkata when they lock horns for the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, popularly known as Salt Lake Stadium Tuesday at 8pm local time.
Bangladesh, without a point so far in the qualifiers, with a relatively younger squad will not have a better occasion to leave their first mark in the Group E points table but India, the significantly-improved side in recent past, will also be eager to claim their first win at home against the lowest-ranked side in the group.
The last time the two sides faced each other was in a 2-2 draw during a Fifa friendly in Goa in 2014, the year when India’s average position in Fifa ranking was 171 against Bangladesh’s 165. Within two years, Bangladesh reached to its lowest ever ranking (197) while India ascended to the top 100 for the first time.
Since then, Bangladesh went through a transition period having not played any international match for 17 months before they started building up and showed much improvement especially under English coach Jamie Day in the last one and half year.
The difference in ranking between the two neighbors would not matter much considering the magnitude of such a game. Bangladesh have won only two matches out of 28 encounters, losing 15 but on most of the occasions, Bangladesh contested evenly and sometimes, even better on the pitch.
The atmosphere of the city of Kolkata, often termed as the Mecca of Indian football, has been electric as all the tickets have been sold out two days prior to the game. Meaning, around 85,000 are expected to watch the game and no doubt, most of them would be Bangalees.
The last time Kolkata hosted an India-Bangladesh game was back in 1985 during the World Cup qualifiers. It was also the last time the two teams were placed in the same group of WC qualifiers. India won both the legs 2-1.
Bangladesh will perhaps feel less pressure than the hosts and they will take confidence from their fighting display against Qatar as well as the confidence they gained from the couple of wins against Bhutan recently at home. The visitors may also expect to surprise India as well by ending their goal drought in the second round of World Cup qualifiers since they scored one against Tajikistan during 1-1 draw on June 16, 2015. But the attacking front led by Nabib Newaz Jibon will have to face the uphill task of breaking the Indian defence and score past their in-form goalkeeper, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu who was phenomenal against Asian champions Qatar, who were held by a goalless draw in Doha recently.
However, the Bengal Tigers are having a fine run since Day took charge. The fitness of the players has improved significantly and they gave a tough time to all the higher-ranked opponents they have faced. Former Croatia head coach Igor Stimac has been in charge of India since May this year after the departure of Stephen Constantine, who had been there since 2015.
With the unavailability of his best squad, Day is likely to keep the squad against Qatar unchanged but defenders Bishwanath Ghosh and Tutul Hossain Badsha have the chance of returning to the starting eleven after recovering from injury and suspension, respectively.
It is likely that Day will construct his game plan with veteran striker Sunil Chhetri in focus. The defence should be cautious not to allow space and opportunity to Chhetri who, among his many international goals, scored both the goals during their last encounter in 2014, and also scored India’s only goal in the ongoing WC qualifiers.
BTV, Bangla TV and Star Sports will telecast the game live.