Bangladesh will be looking to block the aerial route of the comparatively taller Indians in the second semi-final of the Bangabandhu SAFF Championship starting at 7:30pm at the BNS today.
The memories of Motiur Munna’s golden goal that helped Bangladesh defeat India 2-1 in the semi-final of 2003 when they won the title will inspire Bangladesh to repeat the feat. In the past five editions of the SAFF Championship, India overpowered Bangladesh 3-0 in 1997 and the match in 1999 ended goalless. In 2005, it was 1-1 in the group match but the Indians beat Bangladesh 2-0 in the final.
The Indians were seen using the flanks in their three group matches for launching the attacks and trying to take advantage of their height. Bangladesh coach Shahidur Rahman Shantoo was preparing his team to face the crucial challenge in a changed circumstance.
‘Semi-final is a knockout match and there is no scope of committing any mistake, the team will be aware of it and taking the opponents lightly can cause the danger,’ said Shantoo.
The coach elaborated the three-step scheme. ‘We divided our matches into three phases – the group stage, the semi-finals and the final, we achieved our first target now we are in the second phase.
‘We hope to achieve it too and move into the final, the third and final phase of our target,’ said Shantoo.
Skipper Aminul Haque’ disclosed the feelings of his fellow colleagues. ‘They are united and committed, we are determined to win the title, playing against whom is not a concern, my team is ready to fight to win,’ said the skipper.
Bangladesh registered a 4-1 win over Bhutan, drew goalless with Pakistan and beat Sri Lanka 2-1 to emerge as the champions of Group B.
‘All my players have been tested and they have gelled together, I just want the level they have produced in the past three matches and I hope it will be enough,’ said Shantoo.
The coach will be expecting his strike duo of Enamul, the highest scorer with four goals, and Emily will be able to dismantle the Indian fort led by goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya.
Indian coach Sukhwinder Singh’s plans were hit a big blow as two of his reliable midfielders, Jagpreet Singh and Manish Mathani, were ruled out of the semi-final with injuries and forward Balwant Singh is suspended because of the red card he saw against Maldives.
‘Both Jagpreet and Manish are unavailable but we have to look forward with the available resources, Bangladesh played good football but we aim to win the match,’ said the veteran coach.
Sukhwinder claimed Bangladesh’s performances in the group fixtures had been inconsistent and he is not bothered about the advantage the home team will enjoy.
‘They did not play well against Pakistan but fared well in the other two, in modern football home advantage does not play a big role, the main thing is to play better football,’ explained Sukhwinder.
‘All my players are professional and accustomed to playing in different circumstances, I hope that they produce the teamwork to unsettle the home team,’ concluded Sukhwinder.