SAFF Championship 2021 guide to opposition: India vs Bangladesh

Topu Barman celebrates after scoring the winning goal against Sri Lanka. (Image - Bangladesh Football Federation)
Topu Barman celebrates after scoring the winning goal against Sri Lanka. (Image - Bangladesh Football Federation)

India and Bangladesh meet in the round-robin stage of the 2021 SAFF Championship at the National Football Stadium in Malé on Monday, October 4th. India are definitely the favorites on paper, being ranked 107th in the FIFA Rankings as compared to Bangladesh at 189th.

While this will be India's tournament opener, Bangladesh have already played and beaten Sri Lanka 1-0 in their first match on Friday. Here's everything you need to know about Bangladesh ahead of Monday afternoon's clash.

Previous meetings between India and Bangladesh

India and Bangladesh have met 30 times, with the Blue Tigers winning 16 of those, drawing 12 and losing only twice. The last time Bangladesh beat India was way back in the 1999 South Asian Games.

In the SAFF Championship, the two sides have clashed nine times - five wins for India and four draws. The last encounter in the SAFF Championship yielded a 1-1 draw in Kathmandu in 2013.

The most recent meeting between the Blue Tigers and the Bangla Tigers was in June in the joint qualification for the FIFA World Cup and the AFC Asian Cup. India ran out 2-0 winners in Doha thanks to a Sunil Chhetri brace.

Recent results and form of Bangladesh

Bangladesh finished bottom of their group in the aforementioned joint qualification with only two points in 8 matches against Qatar, Oman, India and Afghanistan.

To prepare for the SAFF Championship, Bangladesh took part in the Three Nations Cup friendly tournament in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in the September international window. The Bangla Tigers lost both their matches to much higher-ranked Palestine and Kyrgyzstan, 2-0 and 4-1 respectively.

On Friday, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka kicked off the 2021 SAFF Championship in front of a sizable crowd at the National Football Stadium. Bangladesh dominated possession in the first half but couldn't do much with the ball.

They were then gifted a penalty early on in the second half when Sri Lankan defender Duckson Puslas was sent off for handling the ball in the area. Centre-back Topu Barman dispatched the penalty to hand Bangladesh the lead. They had a couple more opportunities to extend their lead but couldn't take them. In the end, one goal was enough for the win and the three points for Óscar Bruzón's side.

Coach and key players

Bangladesh released Englishman Jamie Day and appointed experienced Spanish manager Óscar Bruzón ahead of the SAFF Championship. He has previously had stints in India with I-League sides Sporting Goa and Mumbai FC and also as the assistant coach of ISL side Mumbai City FC. Fair to say, the Spaniard is no stranger to Indian football.

Bangladesh captain Jamal Bhuyan with coach Óscar Bruzón. (image - Dhaka Tribune)
Bangladesh captain Jamal Bhuyan with coach Óscar Bruzón. (image - Dhaka Tribune)

Since 2018, Bruzón has also been the manager of Bangladeshi club Bashundhara Kings and has won two Bangladesh Premier League titles. They were in Maldives in August as well for the 2021 AFC Cup group stages, where the Kings finished second behind group winners ATK Mohun Bagan. A large number of Bashundhara Kings players are a part of the national team, which works to the advantage of Bruzón.

Captain Jamal Bhuyan, is the leader in midfield and the most experienced player in Bangladesh's 23-man squad. Defense is an area where they can frustrate opponents, as we saw in the match in Doha against India.

They are a side who are happy to allow the opposition to keep hold of the ball, while they maintain their solidity at the back. Topu Barman is their strongest defender and he is helped by the youthfulness and speed of Tariq Qazi and Yeasin Arafat at full-back.

Attack is Bangladesh's biggest weakness, with them mostly rather toothless against quality opposition. 22-year-old Mahbubur Rahman is their most prolific forward with five goals for the national team.

To round it up, a routine win is on the cards for the Blue Tigers should everything go to plan. Defending set pieces and aerial deliveries is one of Bangladesh's weaknesses where India can take advantage.

Štimac's side will certainly expect to keep much of the ball. In the meeting in June, India were only able to break the stubborn Bangladeshi defense in the 79th minute. They will hope to do it much sooner this time around and clinch a comfortable victory.

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Edited by Habil Ahmed Sherule
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