The spell of favouring condition turned upside down after a year
It was the muddy pitch of the Bangabandhu National Staium last year that played a role in favouring hosts Bangladesh to offer some unexpected challenge to Qatar, the current Asian Champion, who faced a bitter taste of monsoon game experience on the easternmost country of the subcontinent.
The spell of favouring condition turned upside down after a year as underprepared Bangladesh traveled for the away fixture without head coach Jamie Day while defender Manjurur Rahman was left out for Covid-19, and key forward Nabib Newaz Jibon is ruled out very late due to a knee injury.
Midfielder Masuk Mia Jonny and forward Matin Miah who could have been a good backup of in-form Jibon but they too had ruled been out earlier for long-term injury and rehabilitation.
Day may join the team soon he gets a Covid-19 negative but the injury of these key members is not the only concern before facing a mighty opponent like Qatar who are more than 100 places above Bangladesh in the rankings.
The major challenge awaiting the interim coach in-charge Stuart Watkiss in the upcoming days is to get the full match fitness of the existing playing members as the lack of that was felt during the two FIFA friendly against Nepal last week after only 20 days of preparation prior to the series following almost a eight-month hiatus for Covid-19 pandemic.
Football in Qatar, on the other hand, had been in full swing since September and their national team played Costa Rica (1-1) and Korea (2-1) this international window when Bangladesh played Nepal. It says much of the difference in preparation between the two sides.
Qatar fixture was rescheduled after the friendly against Nepal was finalized and Bangladesh already started practice camp. Nothing much time was left by the time after eight-month Covid-19 pause as Day could only focus on match fitness in the bygone weeks.
Some of the players including captain Jamal Bhuiyan had to make extra training but it was not enough and they have to work harder in Qatar to be physically prepared to face presumed constant attacks from the much better side in tough, alien conditions.
Jamal said that due to short time, the team has not practiced on set-pieces yet except defending and looks forward to start working in Qatar if they have enough time. It was Jamal’s delicious free-kick converted by Saad Uddin that helped Bangladesh draw India 1-1 in Kolkata five days after they had lost to Qatar by 2-0 at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.
Goalkeeper Ashraful Islam Rana wants to take inspiration from India’s hard-fought goalless draw in Doha where they are currently staying after the 35-member national team contingent arrived in the capital by Thursday afternoon. He also emphasized on the importance of mental strength and self confidence to get ready for a good fight against the hosts.
The team has to stay off the field during three-day quarantine period at team hotel. Bangladesh Football Federation is trying to arrange practice matches on 25 and 28 November. Day will have another Covid-19 test on Saturday and a negative result will allow him to join his disciples.