The 43-year old downplayed his team's chances at the eight nation tournament and also gave an update on their skipper's injury concern...
Bangladesh begin their SAFF Championship campaign against Nepal in the competition opener on Saturday at the Dashrath Rangshala Stadium. Both the teams are backed by fervent supporters and the Bengal Tigers will be looking to improve their performance from the last edition, where they were tamely knocked out in the group stages.
Coach Lodewijk de Kruif though, was quick to play down the expectations on his boys, and stated, “We are here to win but we are not fully concentrated on it. We are not the favourites in the tournament. Countries like India, Afghanistan and hosts like Nepal are the favourites. Others have an outside chance, except maybe you may say Bhutan and Sri Lanka.”
The Dutchman though, was quick to back his players, and commented, “We have good players in Bangladesh and we want to go for it (title). We are very curious on how they will perform in this tournament and we are ready for it.”
When questioned if playing down his team’s chances will hurt the confidence of his squad, de Kruif retorted, “Nobody can say this demotivates my team as we are well prepared and motivated. In 2011 we finished seventh, so after 2 years we have no reason to be called title candidates. Still we are well prepared and in good shape, though some key players who have niggles. But we will give 100% for the country.”
Bangladesh come up against Nepal, whom they beat in Kathmandu, in their last encounter at the AFC Challenge Cup. However the head coach put that result down to luck, and felt that Saturday’s tie could be a very different game from the one in March. He opined, “We have little bit of experience from the March one. We played a game against Nepal and as a coach when I see that game on DVD , then it could easily have been 4-2 to Nepal, but it also had to do with how we played.
“We made mistakes but we were lucky and it was our lucky time that day and Nepal were unlucky. There was a lot of pressure, maybe for 25-to-30 thousand fans and the game was cancelled for some time as somebody was throwing phones on the pitch,” he further added.
On being quizzed whether his players would be intimidated by the level of support the Gorkhalis are likely to have on 31st August, de Kruif brushed aside such concerns and said, “We work at professional level, so they should be used to it, and I don’t see it as a bad point. They should look forward to it.”
The big worry for the Bengal Tigers is the injury to influential captain Mamunul Islam. The head coach gave updated on the same, commenting, “We are still looking at it, and we are treating him, and as you know he is injured. We are looking at it for the moment, but we have a good squad. So if he is not there, someone good will replace him.”
The coach also ruled out playing the midfielder if he is not fully fit, mentioning, “I don’t think I can say he is about 80-90%. I am not a medical man. I depend on the medical team, I need people who are 100% fit, physically and also mentally. It’s going to be a very hostile environment so everyone has to be fit in every way.”
De Kruif also lamented about his team’s lost opportunity to make it into the AFC Challenge Cup, but rubbished claims that it would be any sort of factor for his squad, going into the SAFF Championship.
“Well, over there, we have six points and were qualified. Then 3 weeks later, someone calls and says, ‘No you haven’t’. Can you imagine (our condition)? It was not our problem (about a team backing out), and the AFC has to think of this rule. It was probably invented by someone who hasn’t played much football. We were very disappointed for a few weeks, but we picked up and went on.”
“I don’t think it is anymore in the mind of our boys, that they want to challenge here due to failure in AFC Challenge Cup. But they are very motivated, and it is a well organized tournament, and we want to do well,” he concluded.
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