Isa Town: Bangladesh U23 national team is determined to finish the AFC U23 Championship 2020 qualifying tournament on a high note by claiming a victory over Sri Lanka in their third and final match of Group B.
Expressing his wish to triumph over Sri Lanka, U23 skipper Masuk Miah Zoni said, “In the two games that we’ve played, we tried our level best to win. Unfortunately, we could not. However, in the third and final game against Sri Lanka, we’ll give everything we have to finish the tournament on a winning note.”
Asked whether he expects some changes in the starting eleven for the Sri Lanka game, Zoni said, “We may play with a little more attacking formation in the Sri Lanka match. So, maybe we’ll go in with an additional forward in place of a defender but that’s up to the coach. And then, if Zico can recover in time, then the coach may reinstate him in front of the goalpost.”
The captain was then full of praise for newly recruited physiotherapist Simon Maltby when asked about the players’ fitness level after two draining matches.
“Simon has been a delight to work with. Playing three matches within five days takes a bit of a toll on everyone. But he has been taking care of our fitness really well. He constantly knocks us to know if we need anything. So, it’s been great working with him so far.”
On the other hand, promising young forward Jafar Iqbal also showed determination to win against Sri Lanka. “We’ve played two good matches. Now, we’ll look to register a win against Sri Lanka which will surely work as a confidence booster going forward.”
Reiterating the words of his players, head coach Jamie Day said, “We’d obviously try to finish on a win. I think that’s what they (the players) deserve. So, we’ll try to set up to win the game. And if I’m not mistaken, we’ve never won a game in this competition. So, it would be nice to win the first game. We have played two good games in this tournament. So, we want another good performance and finish on a high.”
Asked whether the 10-day camp in Qatar prior to the tournament was instrumental to the good performances in the first two matches, Jamie wanted to give credit to his boys.
“We played well because the boys have taken on what we wanted to do. Obviously, going away helps. But I think it’s credit to the boys that they have performed well and carried out instructions that we gave them.”
“Maybe, with a little bit of better finishing, we could’ve got something from both games. But the effort and the work rate have been fantastic. So, hopefully we can perform again in the last match like we have done,” added the Briton.
Asked about the Bangladesh’s fast counter-attacks that created serious problems for Palestine, Jamie said, “It’s something that we have been working on since I have been in charge of national teams and the boys carried that out well against Palestine.”
Bangladesh players showed real bravery against Palestine, especially in the second half, which has been a rare sight for some time now. Reflecting on that, Jamie said, “We just told them (the Bangladesh players) to be positive and take the game to them (Palestine) which they did and we were very unlucky not to score.”
Revealing how the Bangladesh players coped so well against a much physically superior Palestine team, the head said, “The tactic was to stay in the game. And we felt our fitness would be better than theirs in the second half. So, we were able to put the pressure on then.”
Praising the huge support for Bangladesh from the fans in the crowd, he said, “The Bangladesh support was fantastic and gave the boys a real lift. We can’t thank them enough for that support.”
Paul Thomas Smalley, Strategic and Technical Director of the BFF who have flown directly to Bahrain from Nepal after the SAFF Women’s Championship, was full of praise for the U23 boys.
“Very impressed. Certainly, after the result against Bahrain. And by all accounts, against Palestine who are even better than Bahrain; if you look at the history,” said Paul.
“We knew that it was going to be an extremely difficult game. But we performed really well throughout the game. Especially in the last 20 minutes of the second half, we were the better team. We created some really good chances.”
“Very pleased for everybody involved. Certainly, very pleased for the players. It was somewhat unfortunate to concede the goal early in the first half. Little bit of a mistake by the goalkeeper. But in all fairness to the goalkeeper, the ball took a little bit of a swerve and a dip. So, it was a surprise for the goalkeeper,” observed the BFF Strategic and Technical Director.
“We stuck to the task, certainly in the first half. Then in the second half, we were the better side. So, extremely pleased and proud to watch the game. And it all bodes well for the future,” Paul concluded.
Now, it’s up to the boys to register a victory against Sri Lanka tomorrow if not for anything else then at least to repay themselves for all the hard work they have put in in the tournament so far.
The Bangladesh-Sri Lanka match will kick-off at the Khalifa Sports City Stadium in Isa Town, Bahrain at 7:00pm Bangladesh time on Tuesday, March 26.