Get well soon, Jamie Day
When watching Italy take on Poland in a crucial Nations League fixture on Sunday night, it was hard not to draw a few parallels between the four-time world champions and Bangladesh, one of the lowest-ranked footballing nations in the world.
This very assertion might sound preposterous to many but there, indeed, are quite a few similarities between the two teams, and more specifically their coaches, which are hard to ignore.
Roberto Mancini and Jamie Day took of the teams only three days apart at a time when both teams were at the lowest points in their footballing history. Mancini was given the reign of Italy, who had missed out on their first World Cup qualification in 56 years -- the darkest episode in that proud footballing nation's history. Day, on the other hand, was appointed by Bangladesh, who were desperate to emerge from the gloom that had engulfed them for the previous two years since a fateful defeat against Bhutan in October, 2016.
Mancini, a fine forward in his day and perhaps an even finer manager, lifted the Azzurri from the depths where his predecessor, Giampiero Ventura, had left them at the end of his two-year tenure. The 55-year-old has built such a strong group of players that the Azzurri are rightly being considered one of the favourites for the title in Euro 2020 next year.
Day might not have had a professional career comparable to Mancini's, but as a coach of a struggling Bangladesh team, he has made quite an impression in the last two years. Results may not have always gone in his favour, but the character and the spirit he instilled in the players is commendable.
On Friday, Day guided his side to a morale-boosting, if not clinical, 2-0 win over Nepal just as Italy, playing without a host of first-team players and without their coach in the dug-out on Sunday, cruised past Robert Lewandowski's Poland with a dominant display.
Day would have dearly loved to be at the dugout for today's match too as Bangladesh take on Nepal again but as things turned out, he is in isolation after contracting Covid-19, just like Mancini. Sadly, this is where the similarities end.
While a win against lowly Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday will seal a place in the last four of the Nations League for the Azzurri, the ride only gets bumpier for Day's men.
Within a couple of days, the Bangladesh team will catch a flight to Qatar to play against the 2022 World Cup hosts in a qualifying fixture on December 4. With a second test coming out positive yesterday, Day looks certain to miss out on that flight, but everyone would be praying that the inspirational coach makes a speedy recovery and be with his charges to guide them through not only that tricky fixture, but many more to come.