History beacons hosts in Cup final

Bangladesh captain Mamunul Islam (L) and Malaysia Under-23 captain Nazirul Naim pose with the Bangabandhu Gold Cup trophy during a press conference on Saturday. — New Age photo

Hosts Bangladesh will face Malaysia Under-23 team in the Bangabandhu Gold Cup final today with a hope to win their first international silverware in years.
The match, which kicks-off at 5:00pm at the Bangabandhu National Stadium, is expected to be a cracking affair as Bangladesh will take on a side that have hundred per cent record in the tournament.
Like their semi-final against Thailand Under-23 team, Bangladesh will begin the game again as underdogs having lost to the same opponents 1-0 in the opening match in Sylhet.
This is payback time for Bangladesh, who have not won any international tournament since 2003, when they beat the Maldives in SAFF final in penalty shootout at the same ground.
The men in Red and Green can take inspiration from their performance in the last two matches when they edged both Sri Lanka and Thailand by 1-0 margin with a spirited show.
Defender Nasiruddin Chowdhury evoked the memories of Matiur Munna, who scored with a stunning volley against India in 2003 SAFF semis to guide Bangladesh to the final.
Nasir tapped a low corner of Mamunul Islam home to take the home side into the finals, something which was beyond their expectations.
Coach Lodewijk de Kruif, however, was not interested to recall the past and is only looking to win the title that they never even dreamed of.
‘It is a very important match to us for all the reasons,’ Kruif told in the pre-match press conference. ‘Most importantly it gives us an opportunity to present something to the nation.’
Kruif hoped that his players will not take any pressure before facing Malaysia for the second time.
‘They combine quick passes and are very skillful,’ Kruif said of Malaysian team.
‘The important thing is to keep our boys mentally up. They got the result in the last match, leaving the pressure behind and played natural game in front of a jam-packed stadium,’ said the 45-year old coach.
De Kruif also hinted that he will prefer retaining the winning combination and at the same time will apply the same game plan.
Bangladesh skipper Mamunul Islam turned down the revenge factor and said they are rather motivated by the prospect of winning the trophy.
‘I don’t believe in the word ‘revenge,’ said Mamunul ‘It will be a history if we can win the title.’
Malaysia coach Mohammad Razip Ismail expected an eye-catching performance from both the sides today.
Malaysia will play for the first time at the BNS in this tournament, having played their all three previous matches in Sylhet.
They want to replicate their success of 1996 when the same Under-23 squad of Malaysia clinched the title.
‘I’m aware of the record as we are the former champions, we will try our best to take the cup back home,’ he said.
Ismail also noticed the improvement of the home side and he believed that they will make the game difficult for his team.
‘The final will be a very different game,’ he said, ‘Bangladesh have improved tremendously, gone strength to strength from the first match.’
‘I think they would want to have their revenge in the final. It’s their tournament, playing in front of the home crowd.’
Malaysian coach added that Bangladesh are feeling the pressure as they lost the opening match.
‘My team is never under pressure in front of the big crowd. I think the pressure is on the home team.’

Source: New Age

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