India on everyone’s mind
"India-Bangladesh matches are always high-voltage ones. All players, including myself, are excited to play matches against them because we could not win in the World Cup Qualifying at Salt Lake despite playing better than them. If we can win here, it will really be a great achievement."
After a light training session at the Turf Ground in Male yesterday afternoon following a 1-0 win over Sri Lanka in the opener of SAFF Championship on the previous day, Bangladesh players were waiting for the team bus when suddenly Tapu Barman asked a reporter whether Bangla food was available somewhere near the team hotel.
The reporter replied in the affirmative, giving a condition that they have to India in the next match. Left-back Yeasin Arafat, who was sitting beside Tapu, instantly responded to the reporter's condition by joking, "Let us eat first and be strong."
Though the charges of Oscar Bruzon were in joyous mood throughout yesterday's training session, they know the measure of the challenge against India, who are 82 places ahead of Bangladesh in FIFA ranking.
Moments after Yeasin's joke, one of the Bangladeshi expatriates who were watching the training session from outside the main gate, shouted towards the players, "Just beat India, we won't mind even if you don't win the title."
There is huge enthusiasm among the expatriates regarding Monday's match against seven-time champions India, who last December beat Bangladesh 2-0 in a World Cup qualifying fixture and are taking this championship as part of their preparation for next year's Asian Cup Qualifiers.
India have always been a hurdle for Bangladesh in SAFF Championships as the Blue Tigers beat the men in red and green twice in final and two more times in semifinal stage.
However, Bangladesh, except for the last meeting, had managed to hold India to draws in previous three meetings and midfielder Mohammad Ibrahim is seeking inspiration from those matches.
"India-Bangladesh matches are always high-voltage ones. All players, including myself, are excited to play matches against them because we could not win in the World Cup Qualifying at Salt Lake despite playing better than them. If we can win here, it will really be a great achievement," said Ibrahim, who frightened the India defence with his speedy runs down the left flank at Salt Lake in September, 2019.
Midfielder Sohel Rana, who had his first training session in Maldives yesterday following his recovery from fever, said, "Matches against India have different excitement. If we want to stay in good position on the table, we must play well against India. We are thinking match by match and want to have another good result against India."