The Polish-born American coach, Stafenowski, of the host country will hope to begin his national team’s conquest with a pressure lifting victory over injury ridden Bangladesh.
Both sets of coaches have chosen the best cavalry available at their disposal, but Bangladesh seem to be suffering from a few early niggles.
“We have been working hard for the championships. These are the best players available‚” expressed Stefanowski. He alluded to the squad selection being influenced by the performance of the players during the three-week tour of the Gulf states, especially in Bahrain and Kuwait.
Perhaps their biggest gamble was to leave Nirajan Khadka out while including U-16 Nepal forward Bimal Gharti Magar. “It was never easy to axe Nirajan but we found others who had an edge over him‚” were the wise words of revelation chosen by the coach.
Meanwhile, Dutchman de Kruif, who recently revealed his Bangladesh team, lamented the loss of goalkeeper Shahidul Alam Sohel to an injury. Mamunul Islam has been included in the squad despite feeling the effects of an injury.
“It was unfortunate but I have to cope with the circumstances, injury problems have hampered by planning more often, but I have to look forward with what I have,” elucidated the not-so-bitter coach.
“Kees Kalk had been doing a great job and the keepers have responded well, I am slowly integrating all the departments ahead of the first match," he added.
Regardless, Bangladesh are eager to put their miserable run behind them and look forward to the tournament with renewed hope. They aim to erase the miserable tidings of their previous run in the Championship, 2011, where they drew a solitary game and were dumped out as last in their group.
“I’m not going to talk about a final place or semi-final or whatever. Of course we go there to win our games as we are sportsmen. We do our best because we have very talented players, talented team. We want to fight for the country. We don’t want to disappoint anyone so we will give everything we can,” stirred up coach de Kruif
To added fuel to an already burning fire, All Nepalese Football Association (ANFA) and South Asian Football President, Ganesh Thapa had laid it on the team to win the tournament and further enhance national pride. He has also promised incentives if they win the tournament.
The haunting humiliation Nepal suffered when they last hosted an international tournament will still be fresh. It was the AFC Challenge Cup in 2012 that the host nation, Nepal then as well, were dumped from the competition in the group stages losing all their matches and finishing last in their cluster.
So, yes they will be eager to get out on the field and do a job to restore face on the international football front.
With such a lot riding on the match, one hopes it will live up to the billing as a rightful SAFF Championship opener and set a precedent for the rest of the tournament to follow.
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