Bangladesh face Maldives with semi dreams in the balance

Bangladesh will take on the Maldives in a must-win match in the group-stage of SAFF Championship in Bengaluru, India on 25 June, 2023BFF

‘There is a saying, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. We always keep trying. Because to us, SAFF is like the World Cup. That’s how we prepare for it every year. We have come here with proper preparation. It’s not as if we have already gotten eliminated from SAFF after suffering one defeat.’

There is no scope to disagree with what Bangladesh’s centre-back Topu Barman said. ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’ is a saying that gives a person the strength to keep fighting no matter the ordeal.

But the problem is that Topu won’t get the chance to ‘try, try again’ in this SAFF. Bangladesh’s match against the Maldives today (Sunday) will be a trial by fire for Topu and co. because if they lose, they won’t be getting a second chance.

The defeat against Lebanon in the first match has positioned Bangladesh at the edge of a cliff. If Bangladesh lose to the Maldives today and Lebanon beats Bhutan in the day’s other game, then Bangladesh’s hopes of reaching the semi-final will get shattered and the Maldives and Lebanon will book their spots in the semis with six points each.

Bangladesh’s match against Bhutan on 28 June will become a dead rubber. Bangladesh haven’t made it to the semi-final of SAFF Championship since 2009 and a defeat today will extend this history of failures.

Bangladesh lost against Lebanon 0-2

If Bangladesh manage a draw against the Maldives, their semi-final dreams will be as good as over even though, mathematically, they will still be alive in the tournament.

Bangladesh played well against Lebanon but still lost the match 0-2 owning to their own mistakes. The Jamal Bhuiyan-led side even created chances to win against the team which is 93 slots ahead of them in the FIFA rankings.

Confidence acquired from the Lebanon match is inspiring Bangladesh to strive for a win against the Maldives.

But defeating the Maldives won’t be a walk in the park. The two-time SAFF champions started their campaign with a 2-0 win over Bhutan. The highest ever goal scorer in SAFF history Ali Ashfaq is not a part of the current Maldives team. Still, the Maldives team has enough venom in the attacking third to hurt Bangladesh.

Maldives, who usually build-up their attack with short passes, are ahead of Bangladesh in terms of strength.

In 1985, Bangladesh had thrashed the Maldives in an 8-0 goal fest. Before every match against the Maldives, memories from that game come rushing back

Bangladesh have defeated the Maldives even after that. In Bangladesh’s only SAFF triumph in 2003, they defeated the Maldives in a tie-breaker in Dhaka. But since then, they have won just one in six matches against the Maldives.

Topu, one of the pillars in Bangladesh’s defence, said in-between practice on Saturday, “We are considering this match as the final. If we don’t win, we will get eliminated. This is a huge responsibility for all the players. Not just for us, we have to win this for Bangladesh.”

Bangladesh head coach Javier Cabrera

Coach Javier Cabrera feels that his charges will have to show bravery and maturity to defeat the Maldives, “We have to be brave. We have to show maturity. We believe that we have the right plans to achieve our goals. I think the match is 50-50.”

Tilting this 50-50 match in their favour will be Bangladesh’s challenge. This is also the only way to keep their semi-final dreams alive.


Bangladesh – Maldives

Match: 15

Draw: 5

Bangladesh: 4

Maldives: 6

Goals: Bangladesh 22, Maldives 21