Skipper Jamal Bhuiyan is doubtful for the do-or-die clash against Sri Lanka today as Bangladesh look to pip the islanders for the runners-up position in Group A of the Bangabandhu Gold Cup.
The 30-year-old midfielder injured his left hamstring during the opening match against Palestine, which Bangladesh lost 2-0, and sat out training in the last two days.
Arguably the most influential member in the side, Jamal has not been ruled out entirely but coach Jamie Day did not want to risk aggravating the injury further, resting him for two successive sessions. It has been learnt that a decision on whether Jamal will play will only be taken after further assessment this morning, with the match scheduled to kick off at the Bangabandhu National Stadium at 5:00pm.
Bangladesh must beat Sri Lanka, even if in shootout, to eke out the second qualifying spot from the group as defending champions Palestine have already booked their semifinal berth with two victories in two matches. After beating Bangladesh 2-0, Palestine applied the same dose on Sri Lanka, albeit the two goals coming right at the end.
The results mean a draw in regulation time would see both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka finish on equal points and with same goal-difference. According to the tournament bylaws, the runners-up spot will then be decided by penalty shootout, with no option for extra-time.
“The probability of my playing is 75 per cent. Still there is pain and I’m facing difficulties in moving my leg,” Jamal told reporters as he watched his teammates go through the training session at the Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club ground yesterday morning.
Sri Lanka (200), the second-lowest ranked side in the tournament, will not pose the same challenge as Palestine (106), the highest-ranked team of the six-team tournament. Bangladesh have beaten Sri Lanka four times in their last five meetings even though the last meeting between the two sides ended in a victory for the Lankans in a friendly in Bangladesh in 2018.
Jamal, despite his injury, is optimistic about being part of the team in this must-win game. “I will try running again tomorrow [Sunday] morning. If I do not feel pain, I will play. Our target is to reach the semi-finals. We could not win the first game and we cannot let that happen again. We’ll have to keep our defence intact and then go for scoring,” Jamal added.
But if Jamal fails to recover from his injury, there is the option of playing Manik Mollah in his position, with Mamunul Islam and Sohel Rana slotting in as the two other midfielders. There could be changes in other positions as well, with the coach expressing his frustration over poor finishing and lapses of concentration in defence after the first match.
With Sri Lanka being a predominantly defence-oriented team, Bangladesh coach could employ an extra striker to combine with Saad Uddin upfront, which means a change in formation.
There will be a forced change in defence after centre-back Yeasin Khan yesterday left the team with fever.
Day, himself, was also hopeful about a victory against the Lankans. “Preparation is good. Obviously, we are eyeing a win against Sri Lanka,” the 40-year-old coach said.
Skipper Jamal, though, is seeking inspiration from their win against the Lankans in the recent South Asian Games, where the Olympic team of the red and greens won 1-0, their only victory in the tournament.
“We beat the Lankans in the South Asian Games. We are ahead of them in attacks too. We want to replicate that performance in Dhaka,” said Jamal.