The sixth edition of the Bangabandhu Gold Cup will begin in low-key manner today with only hosts Bangladesh and Sri Lanka naming a full-strength national side among the six participants.
Four other countries – defending champions Palestine and unfancied African nations Mauritius, Seychelles and Burundi came with a mixture of senior and youth players for the tournament that will run until January 25.
The competitive action will begin with Group A opponents Bangladesh facing Palestine in the opening match that will begin at 5:00pm today at the Bangabandu National Stadium.
Sri Lanka are the other team from this group with three African countries featuring in the other group.
State run Bangladesh Television and a private satellite channel RTV will telecast the matches of the tournament live, said the organiser Bangladesh Football Federation.
The 187th ranked Bangladesh coach Jamie Day expressed his hope of doing well in both group games to reach the semi-final of the tournament that they never won despite being the hosts.
‘It’s a tough tournament but the players are confident. We are very positive before going to tomorrow’s game. We want to win every game,’ Day said at the pre-tournament press conference.
Day was expecting a repeat of show that Bangladesh displayed in their recent World Cup qualifying matches against 106th ranked Palestine.
‘If we repeat the performance like we did against India, Qatar and second half of Oman, it will make things difficult for Palestine,’ said Day.
‘Palestine are good team on pen and papers, not sending their best players…It’s not the same team that came last year but still Palestine will be favourites as they have some technically very good players in the squad,’ Day added.
Palestine team head coach Makaram Daboub also appeared confident of retaining the title adding that they formed a squad for the tournament with six players each from national and Under-23 teams while the rest of players were chosen from domestic leagues.
‘We have come again to win the cup. We have the confidence. We have good players,’ said Makaram.
The 172-ranked Mauritius, who were placed in the Group B with Burundi [ranked 151st] and Seychelles [ranked 200th], came with young players as none, according to officials, has a settled national team.
Mauritius team’s France coach Joaquim Francisco Filho said he will field his charges to gain experience of playing against strong teams.
‘We are a young team. We are going to play against some very experienced teams. They will go to perform and gather experience,’ said Filho.
The coach informed that the 24-year old captain Damien Balisson is the eldest player in his 22-member squad while six players from Under-17 team and the rest are between 20 to 22 years old.
Seychelles, an Indian Ocean island country with a population of barely one lakh, coach said they too have brought a young team.
‘We are from small country, small footballing nation,’ said Donana Coura.
‘Our 90 per cent players are from first division league. They are in good shape… hope we will play well in the tournament.’
Sri Lanka manager, retired colonel Pathmanathan said that they have come with a changed and a balanced team after their failed campaign in the South Asian Games in Nepal.
‘We lost against Bangladesh in the South Asian Games in Nepal. But, now we have come here with a balanced team. We made several changes in the squad,’ said Pathmanathan.
Burundi team was not available in the formal press meet.
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