Bangladesh football finds a new lease on life


Bangladesh football looked dead and buried during a World Cup Qualifier in Doha against India in June, defending for 90 minutes before their resistance was broken by a late Sunil Chhetri brace. But yesterday, nearly four months later, the same group of players turned things around in the SAFF Championship against the same opposition in Male, bravely holding their superior rivals to a 1-1 draw despite having found themselves one goal and one man short for the last 40 minutes.

The players may have remained the same, but Bangladesh’s coach was different. Spanish coach Oscar Bruzon, who is in charge only for the SAFF Championship, has just transformed the team with a philosophy of positive football that is a far cry from former coach Jamie Day’s counter-attacking strategy. That change in attitude has augered well for Jamal and Co.

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“Playing style and mentality have been big factors under the two coaches. It could have been the same as the game in Doha [during the World Cup Qualifier] had we again played long balls. But yesterday we tried to keep possession and attack quickly,” centre-back Tapu Barman told The Daily Star at the Henveiru training ground during practice yesterday.

Goalkeeper Anisur Rahma Zico, who was bombarded by the Indian attack during the World Cup Qualifier in June, enjoyed a less stressful evening on Monday and also credited the Spaniard: “Oscar has been giving us a lot of confidence from the beginning and trying to make us understand that we can play passing football with the quality we have. He also made us understand that Bangladesh is not a team that should stay at 189 in the FIFA Rankings. He has been asking us to prove our quality on the field and he would not mind even if we made mistakes. So, we are trying to play better football.”

Echoing those sentiments, Saad Uddin said: “It is a difference of attitude. We now play positive possession football to win the match.”

Striker Matin Mia also praised Oscar Bruzon for playing him in his preferred position.

“Oscar is motivating all of us continuously and trying to get the best out of each player. India are a good side but they never seemed that much better than us because our coach increased our confidence levels. That’s why we could play good football against India,” Matin said. “Yesterday was different because I played in my preferred position after playing many different positions for the national side. I just tried to play the way the coach instructed me and that’s why I could play better a bit.”

BFF president Kazi Salahuddin, who was in Maldives and watched the first two matches, said: “These boys weren’t handled properly before and I think the best is yet to come. I believe they can play much better than yesterday [Monday].”

Explaining Bruzon’s appointment, the BFF premier said: “It was a decision Bangladesh required at the time. That was the only decision I had. I didn’t have any other options but to appoint Bruzon, who knows every player of the national team,” Salahuddin added, opining that Bangladesh would still need victories in their next two games against Maldives and Nepal to reach the final.

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