Vol. 5 Num 1141 Tue. August 14, 2007  

Asia Cup
Bangladesh eye 6th place

A depleted Bangladesh hockey team will look to better their last-place finishing in the 2003 Asia Cup when they participate in the seventh edition of the continental hockey championship starting on August 31 in Chennai, India.

The top two teams will confirm World Cup berths while the next four would be entitled to join the qualifiers and Bangladesh will eye one of the spots.

However, coach Mahbub Harun knows how difficult the task is.

Although Bangladesh clinched sixth place in 1985 at home, in 1993 in Hiroshima and in 1999 in Malaysia, Harun feels the young side will have to be at their best to achieve the target.

With the likes of ace goalkeeper Rasel Khan Bappi, top centre-halfs Musa Mia and Mahbub Ehsan Rana and forward Habul not joining the camp, Harun had to rely on youngsters.

"There is a vacuum but I hope the newcomers would be able to fill in the gaps. If they can play up to their potential, we have a chance to finish sixth. But we have to beat China and Malaysia to do so," told Mahbub, a former national captain.

Bangladesh have never beaten Malaysia and their record against China in recent times is not very impressive.

Mahbub has been running the camp with his assistant and former colleague Abdullah Piru for over a month and selected new crops like Imran Hossain, Kamruzzaman Rana, Iqbal Nader Prince and Mosharraf Hossain Kuti for the national team.

Bangladesh are in Group-B with local powerhouses India and South Korea and China, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

"We hope to beat at least Thailand and Sri Lanka to be able to get into the qualification matches," added Harun, who has been trying to find different combinations for penalty corners.

"The top teams have high success rate in penalty corners and we are trying to improve on that."

Mahbub added that they will play in an attacking 4-3-3 format against Sri Lanka and Thailand and will adopt a defensive 4-4-2 system against the local giants.

Pakistan, Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore comprise Group A.

Bangladesh are also trying to arrange warm-up matches against Pakistan and Japan in a bid to have match practice.