Bangladesh's unlikely dreams of reaching the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ were kindled by their historic victory in the SAFF Championship in January 2003. The South Asia side won the final via penalties over Maldives before 50,000 boisterous home supporters. The series of victories and increasing international experience could not help but bode well for the squad in their Asian Zone qualifying campaign.
That positive feeling quickly melted away in the end as the Bangladeshis were defeated by Tajikistan by two identical 2-0 scores in the preliminary round of Germany 2006 qualifying. That meant they were out at the first hurdle of the FIFA World Cup again.
Bangladesh were knocked out at the preliminary qualifying stage for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Drawn into Group 10 with Vietnam SR, Mongolia and three-time finalists Saudi Arabia, they finished third with only one win and two draws in six matches. The players were skilful and quick, but they were widely criticized for not having the stamina to last a full international match.
However the performance at the SAFF Championship saw an improvement in this regard as well. They beat defending champions India 2-1 in the semi-finals following three straight group wins. And, in the final, they played 120 minutes of high-tempo action, in which they proved fitter than their rivals. Mohammed Sujan's penalty won the trophy and ushered in a promising new era for Bangladesh.
However, the team's progress has been largely limited by their lack of consistency, which saw them fail in qualifying for the 2007 AFC Asian Cup with zero points from six matches before receiving the wooden spoon in the recent Nehru Cup, where they lost three of the four games.