- Bangladesh’s bid for Qatar 2022 commences in June
- They will face Laos in Asia’s Round 1 qualifying
- Captain Jamal Bhuyan is confident of progression
For each player, it is dream come true to play in a FIFA World Cup™. For Bangladesh captain Jamal Bhuyan, however, it is a matter of great pride to be featuring in a World Cup qualifier.
Asian qualifying for Qatar 2022 opens in June with Bangladesh, who sit at 188 on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, featuring among the six pairings of the continent's bottom ranked sides in Round 1 action. Standing in their way of progression to the group stage are Laos, a side four places above them on the global pecking order.
"The two matches [away and home] are the most important for us during this year," the 29-year-old Saif Sporting Club midfielder told FIFA.com. "Because if we win against them we will be able to progress to the next stage and will play more [World Cup qualifying] matches.
"Our initial goal is to reach the next qualifying stage. I think we have a good chance to get good results against them. We know they can make things hard for us, so we must be 110 per cent focused and prepared for this game."
For Bhuyan, World Cup qualifying provides Bangladesh with another opportunity to showcase their progress, having made history in last year's Asian Games. Bangladesh drew 1-1 against Thailand, before sinking a youthful Qatar line-up 1-0 to progress to the Round of 16 for the first time in history. Bhuyan scored the match-winning goal in stoppage-time against the soon-to-be-crowned Asian champions.
"We played very well," said Bhuyan, reflecting on the memorable campaign. "We surprised our opponents. The goal I scored against Qatar was significant for me because it sealed our historic progression to the next stage. I hope this goal will be remembered forever in Bangladesh."
According to Bhuyan, the man responsible for Bangladesh’s recent development is none other than former Arsenal player Jamie Day, who was appointed head coach of the South Asian side last year.
"I think Jamie is the best coach we have had over the last few years,” he said. “All the players respect him and understand what he wants.
"Since Jamie took charge, a lot changes have been made. Now as a team we have improved in terms of fitness and tactics and we are mentally stronger, too. We are pushovers no more."
Cricket has long been the dominant sport in Bangladesh but with the rapid development of Bangladesh Football Premier League, football is quickly catching up. Bhuyan captains the Dhaka-based Saif SC.
“Football in Bangladesh is going well, and more and more companies are sponsoring the football teams,” Bhuyan said. “The Bangladesh league becomes more exciting because there are several teams capable of competing for the title. Cricket may still be the number one sport in Dhaka, but outside of Dhaka, football is the number one.”
Born in Denmark, Bhuyan cut his teeth with Brondby before being signed by Danish second tier side Hellerup. Not surprisingly, he become a top-star when he returned home, being appointed national team captain.
Bhuyan sees it as his duty to help guide the national team through his personal experiences and know-how. "I see myself as one of the leaders in the team. I have the responsibility to help the team if we are under pressure.
“I can guide the younger players and tell them about where I have failed, so they can learn from my lessons. I will also pass my experiences on to them. I hope my role in the team can carry the team forward.
"Playing for the national team makes me proud. Our country has a population of 165 million people and it is such a special feeling to play for the country and for our people.”