Hosts keen to wipe off SAFF debacle

Bangladesh take on Sri Lanka in Bangabandhu Gold Cup opener today
Hosts Bangladesh will be eager to wipe off their recent SAFF Suzuki Cup debacle as they open their Bangabandhu Gold Cup campaign against Sri Lanka at the Shamsul Huda Stadium in Jessore today.
Even though Bangladesh have better records, Sri Lanka will take the field with some extra-confidence as they reached the semi-finals of the SAFF Championship.Both sides faced each other 14 times, where Bangladesh won on nine occasions while Sri Lanka prevailed in three and the other two matches ended in a draw.
The last time the two sides met was in the last edition of the Bangabandhu Gold Cup, when the hosts managed a narrow 1-0 win over their South Asian neighbours.
But the present situation is a bit different as the home side performed awfully in the just concluded SAFF Championship, where they were eliminated from the group stage after suffering back-to back-defeats to Afghanistan and Maldives respectively.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, qualified for the last four for the first time since 2009 after defeating Nepal 1-0 in their first group match.
Bangladesh coach Maruful Haque had only three days to prepare the team for the tournament. But the 46-year old claimed that his charges were both mentally and physically ready to make a winning start.
‘I got only three days to prepare the team after we played our last game of the SAFF Championship against Bhutan on December 28,’ said Maruf during the pre-match press conference at a hotel in Jessore on Thursday.
‘But I saw that the boys are ready mentally and physically for tomorrow’s [today] game and we want to start the tournament on a winning note.’
Maruf, however, admitted that his team will take the field with some extra-pressure after a poor performance in the SAFF Championship.
‘It is always a challenge to produce good results under pressure and we could not perform well in the SAFF,’ said the coach.
‘We are trying to overcome the pressure and put up a better performance.’
Maruf also claimed that his charges are fully focused to give their best in this tournament and leave aside all the incidents that happened in the last few days over the players’ transfer issue.
‘I talked with the players and they told me that they are trying to forget what happened over the transfer issue,’ said the coach.
‘I strongly believe that they are well focused to give their best to regain the respect.’
Sampath Perera, the coach of Sri Lanka team, thinks that this tournament will be a great platform for his young guns to prepare for the forthcoming South Asian Games.
Sri Lanka picked up 16 players from their Olympic team, which will participate in the next month’s SA Games while only eight players came with the experience of SAFF Suzuki Cup.
‘This is an opportunity to give the exposure to our Under-23 players ahead of the SA Games,’ said Perera.
‘Most of the players in this team are going to play their first international match against Bangladesh.’

-With New Age input

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