As many as nine players from the previous Saff Championship in Kerala, India three years ago, have managed to keep their place in the latest home edition and among them are three vital senior members from the Olympic team’s Asiad squad
Jamie Day demands everyone’s contribution in order to get back to scoring ways in the much-awaited Saff Championship 2018 after conducting his first training session with the final troupe of 20 booters including the starting-eleven members from the last three Asian Games matches.
The performance during the Sri Lanka friendly was an unusual one for Day as the English coach seemed to have calmed down a bit from his immediate reactions, before finalising the squad on the previous day, which is blended with youth dominating the attacking line-ups and experience in defence and midfield.
As many as nine players from the previous Saff Championship in Kerala, India three years ago, have managed to keep their place in the latest home edition and among them are three vital senior members from the Olympic team’s Asiad squad.
Day gave another chance to experienced goalkeeper Shahidul Alam Sohel by keeping him alongside first-choice Ashraful Islam Rana. The back-five is led by the presence of veteran ones like Nasir Uddin Chowdhury and Waly Faisal. Both of them could be participating in their last Saff tournament but their hard-work has impressed Day in the last two and half months, and then there is Topu Barman. But Asiad youngsters Tutul Hossain Badsha, Bishwanath Ghosh, Sushanta Tripura will be there to take their chances as well.
Mamunul Islam and Emon Mahmud are expected to bring both experience and depth in the midfield controlled by Jamal Bhuiyan and Atiqur Rahman Fahad. Experienced Faisal Mahmud’s versatility might have earned him a place but the rest of the midfield and forward line-ups will be dominated by the Asiad youngsters like Masuk Mia Zoni, Saad Uddin, Biplo Ahmed and Rabiul Hasan.
Md Abdullah was the only Asiad member to sustain a long-term knee injury and was not picked up but the exclusion of young forwards Jafar Iqbal and Matin Mia raised eyebrows. The young attacking duo couldn’t get enough playing time at Asiad and failed to impress Day much during Sri Lanka friendly. Jafar’s one goal against Laos this year with national team and a brace against Indian youth national team during Saff U-18 Championship 2017 was not enough to outrace other youngsters.
Perhaps, Day’s major concern still remained at solving scoring puzzle and he seemed to be relying on young forwards after what was apparent during Sunday’s practice session at the Bangabandhu National Stadium. The only senior inclusion for center-forward options is Shakhawat Hossain Rony.
“The goalscoring issue is not going to change in the space of ten days,” said Day. He added, “But what we have got is young players that are prepared to put themselves in goalscoring opportunities. We hope when they get the opportunity they take them.
“Everyone has got to contribute. We need to score goals from set-pieces, that is going to be important. But from the back-four to midfield, everyone has to play a part. We can’t rely on one center-forward.”
Day also talked about the role of the senior booters. “We need some older ones in SAFF because we need their experience to guide the younger ones. We've got a good bunch of young lads who are the future of Bangladesh, but we've got to make sure they get good experience from this and learn from the old ones as well.”
“We haven’t won a competition for 15 years. So all I can say is that the group of boys we have got will do their best to go as far possible. There are better teams in the tournament than us. That’s a fact. But we have a group of young players who are willing and able to win a few games.”
Day on exclusion of Jafar Iqbal
"Jafar has done well but unfortunately for me, I just think we have got better players. We also have wide players who can also play up front like Saad, Rony and Sufil. We only need one striker so we don’t need 4-5 strikers. We have got players who compete in that position. Jafar is unlucky that he didn’t make it in the squad but again, we have the Bangabandhu Gold Cup in October and he has a chance there," said Day.
Could fatigue be a concern?
"Mentally and physically, there might be little bit fatigue. We have done our best trying to give them rest when they need it but they have a long schedule. We’re all getting tired, because it’s been a long time. But we’ve got just ten days where we have got to give everything we possibly can. Hopefully we do well and then they can have some rest," said Day.
Ashraful Islam Rana, Shahidul Alam Sohel, Anisur Rahman Ziko; Topu Barman, Nasir Uddin Chowdhury, Waly Faisal, Tutul Hossain Badshah, Bishwanath Ghosh, Sushanta Tripura, Faisal Mahmud; Jamal Bhuiyan, Atiqur Rahman Fahad, Mamunul Islam, Emon Mahmud, Sohel Rana, Masuk Miah Joni, Biplo Ahmed; Mahbubur Rahman Sufil, Saad Uddin, Shakhawat Hossain Rony