‘Going to be even more challenging for Maldives’
Bolstered by a creditable 1-1 draw against India in the previous match, Bangladesh are looking forward to preserving the momentum of their performance in their crucial upcoming SAFF Championship encounter as they square off against the hosts and defending champions Maldives at the National Football Stadium in Male, Maldives today.
The game will get underway at 10:00pm (Bangladesh Standard Time) after seven-time champions India take on Sri Lanka in the day's first match at 5:00pm.
Bangladesh are in the second position of the five-team table after leader Nepal, and they are expecting to stay unbeaten against Maldives to strengthen their claim to feature in the final of the regional football extravaganza after 18 years.
A defeat against Bangladesh will definitely reduce Maldives' chances to defend the title they won in Dhaka, so the hosts are desperate to derail Bangladesh, who are surprisingly performing better under new Spanish coach Oscar Bruzon.
Bruzon, who had been in Maldives for two years with New Radiant Club, believes that Maldives will be under more pressure than Bangladesh.
"We are approaching one game at a time. I think it's going to be even more challenging for Maldives because this match is the final for them. They are hosts and can't afford dropping more points," said Bruzon at the pre-match conference yesterday.
"Tomorrow, it's going to be an open game and both teams will be trying to win. We don't want to think much about the host country or the FIFA ranking," said the 44-year-old coach.
Maldives coach Ali Suzain is wary of the magnitude of the challenge from their perspective as well.
"At the moment, the form of Bangladesh is very good and the motivation will be very high because of a 1-1 draw against India. So it's a very tough challenge for us and we have to go for three points in front of our own crowd," said Suzain.
Maldives are yet to lose against Bangladesh since their defeat in the SAFF Championship final in 2003. During the last 18 years, Maldives had beaten Bangladesh thrice – 3-1 and 3-1 in 2011 and 2015 SAFF Championship before humiliating the men in red and green 5-0 in a friendly match in 2016.
However, an in-form Bangladesh will definitely be hoping for an outright victory this time around, which will almost ensure their place in the final while ousting the hosts from the tournament in the process. In that case, the forwards need to step up to score the goals but Bruzon wants to bank on all players, labelling them as 11 strikers and 11 defenders in the spirit of total football. Bangladesh will miss the services of Rakib Hossain and Bishwanath Ghosh, who are suspended for the match.