Bangladesh national football team will likely return to competitive football in October this year as Asian Football Confederation (AFC), on Friday, released a new schedule for the remaining fixtures of the second round joint qualifiers of 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup. The four remaining matchdays will be held in the FIFA windows of October and November.
Bangladesh are at the bottom of Group E with one point, having played a game each against all four opponents. The last game Bangladesh played was on November 14, 2019 away to Oman, suffering a 4-1 defeat.
According to the new schedule, Bangladesh will host Afghanistan on October 8 before playing away to Qatar five days later. After a month's break, Bangladesh will host India on November 12 and end their campaign of the second round by hosting Oman on November 17.
"The latest decision has been taken with a view to completing the Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 by November 2020 and to commence the subsequent FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Asian Qualifiers Final Round as well as the play-off matches for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Round 3 Qualifiers by the March 2021 match dates in the FIFA International Calendar,'' said an AFC statement.
Although the SAFF Championship is scheduled to be held in September, it looks unlikely that the regional event will be held on time, and these qualifying fixtures, too, are being proposed subject to normalcy of the situation in October and November.
Bangladesh Football Federation's general secretary Abu Nayeem Shohagh yesterday, through a video message, confirmed the news. He said that BFF will hold discussions regarding the matter in the coming days.
"Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) will be discussing this matter with the national team's committee. And we hope that the proposed fixtures in October and November can be played as we hope that the situation will get better in the meantime. We have already started our preparations keeping this in mind," said Shohagh.
AFC has also proposed to host the postponed fixtures of the AFC Cup (South Asia Zone) in September and October this year, but at a single venue. However, unlike the AFC Cup, which is a club competition for the second-tier teams of the continent, the qualifying fixtures of the national teams will be held in home-and-away format.