2021 SAFF Championship
Bangladesh's dream to play final diminished!
Bangladesh national football team suffered a 1-1 draw against Nepal in its last group match of the 2021 SAFF Championship on Wednesday and thus failed to put an end to the 16-year long wait for playing the final of the event also known as the 'Football World Cup of South Asian region'.
Ahead of the match at Male National Stadium, the equation was simple for Bangladesh that the team had to win to get tickets to the final. While a draw was enough for Nepal to get the chance.
It is 16 years ago when Bangladesh played the final of the SAFF Championship for the last time in 2005. In the second semifinal of the 2005 SAFF Championship (then it was called SAFF Gold Cup) on 14 December 2005, Bangladesh defeated Pakistan by 1-0 while India defeat the Maldives by the same margin in the first semi-final and both confirmed the final. In the final, Bangladesh was lost to the opponent by 2-0.
A total of four changes were made from the last match's team for the Nepal match. Yeasin Arafat, Sohel Rana, Matin Miah and Rahmat Miah who played from the beginning in the Maldives match were not in the squad against Nepal. But, promising defender Biswanath Ghosh and winger Rakib Hossain returned overcoming the card issue.
Bangladesh coach Oscar played the boys in a 4-1-4-1 formation in previous matches. But, he deployed two strikers in the Nepal match to get the benefit of a midfield-packed team with available forces for defence and attack.
The entire match was full of attacks and counter-attacks.
In the match, Bangladesh went ahead in the ninth minute when striker Sumon Reza headed on a free-kick of midfielder Jamal Bhuiyan and successfully hit the post.
Before that, the Nepal boys were given a free-kick yet the shot their Sujan Shrestha took went wide of the post.
Bangladesh could double the lead in the 13th minute but the powerful shot of winger Saad Uddin flew by the post.
The entire first half and almost the second half was in control of the boys of Bangladesh. But, Anjan Bista, a 23-year Nepal striker, disheartened the Bangladesh fans equalising the margin only two minutes before the long whistle.
This goal was all the Nepal boys need to confirm the final.
The SAFF Championship was introduced 28 years ago in 1993. The event was previously known as the South Asian Association of Regional Co-operation Gold Cup and SAFF Gold Cup.
Bangladesh played the first final of this event in 1999. That time the Bengal Tigers downed Nepal by 2-1 in the semis on 29 April in 1999 and secured the final against India.
Bangladesh played the final for the second time and won its only trophy of the event in 2003. Then, the boys defeated the India boys by 2-1 in the semis to set the final melee against the Maldives. Bangladesh won the trophy beating the opponent by 5-3 in the penalty shootout after the stipulated time saw a 1-1 tie.