- Qatar are top of Asian qualifying Group E
- Bangladesh aiming for positive result despite difficult task
- This will be the first competitive game in Asia in 2020
Bangladesh will have it all to do today against Qatar, the reigning Asian champions and host of the FIFA World Cup 2022™, when the teams meet in Group E of the Asian qualifiers for the global showpiece.
This Friday, the Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium will host Asia’s first competitive international of 2020 after matchdays 7 and 8 of the second qualifying round, which were originally scheduled for October and November 2020, were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Qatar will be aiming to extend their lead in Group E, having already registered four wins and a draw, including a 2-0 defeat of Bangladesh in Dhaka. The hosts will enjoy a genuine home advantage with permission granted for spectators to occupy 20 percent of the stadium’s seating capacity.
Al-Annabi will be relying on the nucleus of players who won the AFC Asian Cup 2019, spearheaded by reigning AFC Player of the Year Akram Afif, as well as the top-scorer of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Almoez Ali. They will, however, have to deal with the absence of defender Ro-Ro (Pedro Miguel) due to suspension.
The defending Asian champions cannot wait for the action to restart. "We’re very happy to resume matches as we haven’t played any competitive games for a long time. The players are excited about this encounter,” said Qatar coach Felix Sanchez.
Asked about the corresponding away fixture in 2019, the Spaniard said: "Bangladesh had some chances in that game, and we noticed that they defend very well. They do their utmost in every match and that is one of their strengths.”
Al-Annabi prepared for today’s match with three friendlies in the last two months; losing 5-1 to Ghana, drawing 1-1 with Costa Rica and most recently going down 2-1 to Korea Republic.
Bangladesh will be under no illusions heading into this game, given that Qatar are 125 places above them in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. Moreover, they are bottom of Group E, having picked up a solitary point in four games courtesy of a draw with India.
The South Asian side prepared for the encounter with two friendlies against Nepal last month, winning the first match 2-0 before drawing the second 0-0.
Bangladesh coach Jamie Day admitted it would be tough to defeat Qatar, saying: "Winning will be difficult despite the solid preparation we made by playing four friendly matches."
The English coach recently contracted Covid-19 and was only able to join his team in Qatar on Wednesday. "We want to get a positive result against the Asian champions,” he said.