Bangladesh Aims to Semifinals in SAFF

The Bangladesh national football team is aiming to reach the semifinal stage of the SAFF Championship, which starts on Wednesday in India. 

Bangladesh’s greatest achievement in a SAFF event was winning the tournament in 2003 by defeating Maldives in the final at home. However, in the past 20 years, they have been unable to replicate that success, despite reaching the final twice. The elusive title has remained out of their grasp.

This time around, the Bangladesh team is not setting their sights on winning the SAFF outright. Their main objective is to secure a spot in the semifinals, as the players stated before going to India to take part in the SAFF Championship.

In their first match of the tournament, Bangladesh will face Lebanon on Thursday at 4pm. Lebanon currently ranks 99th in the FIFA men’s team ranking, while Bangladesh sits at 192. The ranking disparity clearly highlights the difference between these two teams, making a draw against Lebanon a significant achievement for Bangladesh.

In their second match in the initial stage of the tournament, Bangladesh will take on Maldives on Sunday. Maldives holds the 154th position in the FIFA ranking, which is higher than Bangladesh’s ranking.

Both of these matches pose considerable challenges for Bangladesh in their quest to secure a place in the semifinals. However, the final match of the first phase against Bhutan provides an opportunity for Bangladesh to potentially secure an easy victory, as Bhutan is the only team they can expect to defeat without much difficulty.

Yet, a single win will not be enough to secure a spot in the semifinals. Under these circumstances, Bangladesh’s expectations for this year’s SAFF Championship remain modest.

Despite the odds, Bangladesh captain Jamal Bhuyan expressed his belief over winning the SAFF. However, he emphasized the importance of performing well against Lebanon.

“For now, our focus is on securing a spot in the semifinals. If we manage to progress from there, then we can start thinking about the title,” he stated before departing for India on June 16th. Other players and support personnel have also expressed the same goal—to secure a place in the semifinals. However, they acknowledge that it will not be an easy path for Bangladesh.

A total of eight teams are participating in this year’s SAFF Championship. Kuwait, India, Pakistan, and Nepal form Group A, while Bangladesh, Bhutan, Lebanon, and Maldives comprise Group B. After the group stage, the top two teams from each group will advance to the semifinal stage.

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