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Five things learned from Nepal friendlies

  • Published at 02:57 pm November 18th, 2020
Bangladesh players celebrate after winning the Mujib Barsho Fifa International Football Series 2020 against Nepal at Bangabandhu National Stadium Tuesday Dhaka Tribune/Md Manik

The two games are undoubtedly worthwhile preparation before facing Qatar away on December 4

Normally a player requires at least six weeks of pre-season time to get match fit, but Bangladesh got only 20 days, while it was a week less for the traveling Nepal team after almost eight-month break from Covid-19 pandemic to play the two-match friendly series. In both games, Bangladesh had upper hands in the first half and Nepal had that after the break but the results and overall display made the difference for the hosts as they seal the Mujib Barsho FIFA International Football Series 2020. 

The two games are undoubtedly worthwhile preparation before facing Qatar away on December 4. Here we analyse five things from Nepal friendlies to look forward to national team’s upcoming fixtures.

Good depth to look forward

With Shahidul Sohel left out injured, Anisur Rahman Zico proved to be a worthy alternative for Ashraful Rana to fortify the space between the posts. Manik Molla continued to impress in the defensive midfield as Atiqur Fahad just returned to the squad after a long ligament injury followed by pandemic break and yet to get match fit. Riyadul Rafi first, then Yeasin Khan were given starts alongside Topu Barman at center-back, and both managed clean-sheet, although there was not much organised attacks as expected from the opponents. Bishwanath Ghosh was perhaps the busiest man on the pitch, not for getting fully involved in both games but also, most of the occurrences happened at Bangladesh’s right side. The reliable right-back lost possession, made missed-passes and fouls on occasions but hardly allowed the wingers to break through. He also had to serve more than a dozen of throw-ins. And there is Finnish-born Tariq Qazi on the cards yet to make debut and look forward to. The attacking zone will certainly have more depth when injured Matin Mia and Masuk Mia Jonny return to the squad.

Forwards can score but…

Nabib Newaz Jibon proved to be a man to be fit for any position at the attacking third except, may be, on left wing. Statistically he is more prolific when playing behind a striker in recent times than at his favourite No. 9. Alongside creating chances, he exhibited a brilliant finish in the first match while super substitute Mahbubur Rahman Sufil also netted a beautiful goal and showed great pace with the ball up front. But what missed most was the role of a center-forward where Suman Reza from recently promoted Uttar Baridhara Club only made debut. Suman bettered a bit during build-ups in the second game but couldn’t impress with finishing and positioning. Jibon might appear better choice as striker while playing mighty team like Qatar but the team has a long way to get a striking partnership that will be consistently reliable against any opponent.

Midfield not going up and missing link

Bangladesh had to play most of their matches against the teams with higher rankings in last two years and perhaps that is one of the reasons Jamie Day has built his side dependent on counter attacks and set pieces. But when playing underprepared Nepal, the lack of creativity and distribution from the midfield was evident. There was also more possessions lost and misplaced passes when Jamal and Manik were substituted off. The absence of Mamunul Islam and Jonny may be considered behind the reason as well. Sohel Rana however, delivered a spectacular lob to assist Sufil’s goal after coming off the bench but except set-pieces and long balls, the forwards deserve more support from the midfield when facing near-standard opponents.

With or without Jamie Day

It’s not the same when Jamie Day is not in the training or dug-out. The Bangladesh head coach has made such a good connection with the players and earned respect as well over last couple of years that the effect of his physical absence was clearly distinguishable during the last game and two days prior to that when he was present. The hosts performed a lot worse than the first friendly. There was short of fruitful communications from technical area from where Day’s instructions and tactical changes were missed. Stuart Watkiss has more experience than Day at managing clubs but he lacked experience when it is national team. He, however also didn’t get enough time to be prepared but managed well to keep the clean-sheet.

Fans love victory even in pandemic

It has become a new normal in the days of pandemic that social distancing is hard to maintain and thus wearing masks too is uncared for. Initially only 8,000 seats were reserved which was one-third of total capacity but the number was more in the first game. The win and two goals entertained the crowd to its fullest. It led to increased demand for tickets for the second friendly which was less entertaining but yet the home fans were in joyful mood to celebrate the return of football after long hiatus and left satisfied as the series was won too.

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