Since the introduction of the Bangabandhu Gold Cup international football tournament in 1996, only Malaysia had the unique record of winning the trophy twice. Today Palestine can stake a claim to that record when the defending champions take on Burundi in the final of the sixth edition, with the match scheduled to kick off at 4:00pm at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.
Apart from Malaysia Red and Malaysia under-23 sides, Japan Football League XI, Nepal and Palestine have won the title of this invitational tournament, which was revived in 2015 following a gap of 15 years. The only time hosts Bangladesh reached the final was in 2015 and since then they have been eliminated from the semifinals each time. They will be mere spectators again when Palestine and Burundi, the two top-ranked sides of the tournament, square off in today’s final.
While 106th-ranked Palestine had to battle hard for a 1-0 win over Seychelles in the first semifinal, 151st-ranked Burundi had little trouble dispatching Bangladesh 3-0 in the other semifinal.
Palestine have scored five goals and are yet to concede any while Burundi have scored 10 goals despite conceding lead in both group matches. Hence the final is expected to be a battle between Palestine’s defence and Burundi’s attackers.
“We know the final match will be difficult, but we are ready for it because we have come to Bangladesh to defend the title,” Palestine coach Makram Daboub told reporters at the pre-match conference yesterday.
“Burundi are a good and strong team and they have some skilful players. They also have the tournament’s best attacking line-up, but they play individually,” Makram said. “But Palestine play as a group. We have also kept clean sheet in last three matches. I believe in my players, who are focused on winning the match.”
The Tunisian believes the final will be an even affair and there is no clear favourite. However, Burundi coach Bipfubusa Joslin is keeping Palestine ahead even though he believes the best team will come out trumps.
Joslin’s big strength is his attacking pair of Nshimirimana Jospin and Tambwe Amissi, who have together scored nine goals, with the former bagging seven. However, the coach does not want to dwell in the past.
“You should not count scoring of the previous games. Scoring in the final match depends on how both sides play but we will definitely want to score more like we did in this tournament,” said Joslin.
“We want to congratulate Palestine for winning the title last time, but it is another day and another final for them. We have come here to win the tournament and our dream to clinch our maiden international trophy will realise after winning the final,” Joslin added.