Bangladesh Olympic team finished the group stage as the runners-up side with four points, behind table-topper Uzbekistan, and qualified for the Round of 16
Bangladesh created history as a breathtaking late strike by captain Jamal Bhuiyan in the dying stages earned the men in red and green their first ever berth in the knockout stage of the Asian Games Football, beating 2022 Fifa World Cup host Qatar 1-0 in their final Group B match at Patriot Chandrabhaga Stadium in Bekasi, West Java, Indonesia Sunday.
After an almost even affair throughout the game with Bangladesh continuing their solid and organised performances from the previous matches, midfielder Jamal stunned Qatar with a right-footed strike from the top of the box, beating the goalkeeper at the near post.
It sparked wild celebrations in the Bangladesh dug out. In the process, the Bangladesh Olympic team finished the group stage as the runners-up side with four points, behind table-topper Uzbekistan, and qualified for the Round of 16.
It was not the best of days for Bangladesh since the morning, given the results of the other disciplines in the 18th edition of the Asiad. But the junior booters, led by three senior members including Jamal, ensured the day would end on a happy note for Bangladesh. Bangladesh will now take on Iran or Saudi Arabia in the last 16 Friday.
Head coach Jamie Day kept the squad unchanged with last match’s scorer Mahbubur Rahman Sufil as centre forward and Saad Uddin and Biplo Ahmed on the flanks. Masuk Miah Joni kept his place behind the striker and the team looked confident from the beginning.
Jamal and Co carried on from where they had left off in their previous game against Thailand in the Asiad, passing with rhythm and pushing the forward line further up the field early in the game.
In the first 20 minutes, Saad, Sufil and Joni kept the Qatar defenders busy but Sufil was at the forefront of most of Bangladesh’s attacks.
Saad created the first opportunity in the ninth minute, delivering a fine through pass to Sufil into the left flank. Sufil outpaced his marker to break into the penalty area but his curved effort from the edge of the box went wide of the far post.
Qatar keeper Marwan Badrelin almost awarded Bangladesh a goal in the 17th minute but Sufil, once again, missed the opportunity in a one-on-one with the custodian. Sufil shot straight to the keeper from the top of the box.
Qatar had their share of chances in the next quarter hour with their skipper and forward Alsaadi Ahmed hitting the sidepost in the 22nd minute with a free-kick from 20 yards out after Jamal committed the foul. Alshamari Meshal headed over from close range five minutes later.
Bangladesh had their last chance of the opening half in the 38th minute but defender Topu Barman headed straight to the keeper from their first corner, taken by Jamal.
Nothing much changed after resumption with Bangladesh remaining solid at the back, powered by Topu, Tutul Hossain Badshah and Bishwanath Ghosh.
Qatar looked dangerous in the right flank for some time as Sushanta Tripura struggled with the pace of Hatim Hassanin.
The men in red and green exhibited brilliant build-up play in the 65th minute, which saw Biplo showing magnificent skills to break into the right side of the box only to see his quick effort saved by the netminder.
It was a common scene in Bangladesh football in the years gone by that the players got tired in the last 10 or 20 minutes of the game but things have changed since the team got involved with continuous training camps since February this year, especially after Jamie Day took charge three months ago. As a result, the fitness of the players improved significantly.
Following the introduction of youngsters Mohammad Abdullah and Matin Miah in the 61st and 66th minute respectively, Bangladesh appeared more dangerous, especially in the last 10 minutes, trying to penetrate the opponent’s defence.
And Jamal finally put Bangladesh ahead, utilising the space afforded by a tired Qatar defence, that too in the third minute of four minutes of time added on. Collecting a short pass from Joni, Jamal’s right-footed grounder from the top left corner of the box gave no chance to the Qatar keeper.
The seven senior players in the gallery, the coaching staff, and manager Satyajit Das Rupu, along with the Bangladeshi journalists in the press box, all went wild in celebration after the historic win.
I want to praise the boys for their effort and desire that they have put in the last 12 weeks in training and pre-camp. And it showed [Sunday night] when you work hard and really want something you can achieve it. Congratulations to Bangladesh to qualify from the group stage for the first time and they deserve it.
I think the things we have been doing in the training session has been shown on the field tonight. We were very hard to beat and very hard to break down. The boys worked extremely hard. We sometimes have to be patient and you have to believe in the boys because they are in the game for 90 minutes. They keep running and try to do the job. Sometimes you will not get the result that you ask for.
You saw the fitness and organisation which is not easy to get. They showed quality towards the end. They were going for the setpeices, they threw their body on the line and they stopped chances. I think it was a good reply to critics that Bangladesh can play a good game of football. There is still room for improvement and I hope the people of Bangladesh will now appreciate what they have achieved. I will expect all to show them appreciation and get behind them.
We had to work really hard in this match. I think we have had a good game, they did not have many chances. We have stepped up in the second half. We got a chance in the last moment and scored.
It was a good goal but it was not just my goal but of the team. It was great goal for me personally.
We have plan for every team we play. We know their best and their weaknesses. We do research and when you don’t you get beaten. We plan every game that we play and start planning from two or three days before.
Bangladesh U-23 1 (Jamal 90+3) 0 Qatar U-23
Bangladesh U-23 Match stats Qatar U-23
30 Possession (%) 70
4 Shots on goal 4
9 Overall shots 12
3 Corners 4
1 Free kicks 15
Source: Dhaka Tribune.