Bangladesh’s ignominious 1-3 defeat to minnows Bhutan in the Asia Cup Qualifiers play-off in 2016 was termed as an ‘upset’ and bemoaned as such. 22 months later the Himalayan nation are again up against Bangladesh on the opening day of the SAFF Suzuki Cup with the home side eagerly waiting to prove that result to be truly an upset.
Since that frustrating defeat, the current and former footballers had said many times that Bangladesh would beat Bhutan every time they faced them in future. The age-group teams (U-15 and U-18) had proven their superiority against Bhutan in every meeting in their respective SAFF Championships but the senior team had not gotten the chance to keep their promise over the last two years.
“That [the 3-1 defeat] was a disappointing result for all, and it has also been working inside the players as we were most embarrassed after that defeat. It is now time to come back against Bhutan. We want to play positively and leave the field with a victory,” said centre-back Tapu Barman, who was present during that infamous defeat in Thimphu.
“As I was part of that match, I want to take revenge and want to prove a point that the defeat was an upset. But we don’t feel any pressure because we will be playing in front of our own spectators,” said the 24-year-old defender who is likely to pair with either Tutul Hossain Badsha or Nasir Chowdhury to make an unbroken backline.
Now only five players of that squad then coached by Belgian Tom Saintfiet — goalkeeper Ashraful Islam Rana, Tapu, Mamunul Islam, Shakhawat Hossain Rony and Atiqur Rahman Fahad — are now part of English coach Jamie Day’s squad in which young striker Mahbubur Rahman Sufil is expected to be the spearhead of Bangladesh’s attack.
“That team was also a good one but they could not beat Bhutan due to some silly mistakes. This time Bangladesh are a well balanced side, who have worked hard in the last few months. So, I think we will produce a good result against Bhutan tomorrow,” said Sufil.
Since that win, Bhutan have so far played seven international matches, losing all and conceding a total of 46 goals. Bangladesh, meanwhile, played just two friendly matches in two years — a 2-2 draw against Laos and a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka last week.
“For me and our players, I don’t look at the negative side [of the Sri Lanka match]; we look at the positives. We’ll take that and the fact that we defended well in the Asian Games into the Bhutan match. We are not worried about what happened before,” said Jamie, who is likely to stick with the starting line-up that played in the Asian Games with a couple of possible changes in the backline.
Bangladesh lost to Bhutan only once before beating them four times and drawing twice.