Asian football expert John Duerden meets Bangladesh's Dutch coach and learns more about their team's preparations and plans ahead of the nations' 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Qualifier™ in Perth on September 3.
Bangladesh's head coach has warned Australia that the South Asians are coming to Perth ready for action. What's more, he’d like to work in Australia if the chance arises... Australia, meet ambitious Dutchman Lodewijk de Kruif.
His Bengal Tigers recovered from a 3-1 home loss to Kyrgyzstan on June 11 to draw 1-1 in Tajikistan five days later and de Kruif is looking forward to a first meeting with the reigning Asian champions in their 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Qualifier™ on September 3 in the WA capital.
“Facing the number one team in Asia will force us to be careful,” the Dutch mentor told www.socceroos.com.au.
“They have great players with experience in big leagues. We respect them but we will not hide. This is absolutely no tourist trip.
“All my players are full professionals and most became big stars in the last three years. We have good quality players. I expect lots of learning moments, a great atmosphere and a massive experience for my players.”
The coach concedes that finishing in the top two and trying to get to the final round of qualification is unlikely but wants to finish as high as possible in Group B. After all, there is a chance to qualify for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
“Before we started the qualifiers I was focused on third place. It’s a high target but when your target is zero then don't play in professional sport.”
There are still headaches, though. The team's Achilles heel is a tendency to concede late goals. It happened at home to Tajikistan in June. It has been something that de Kruif has complained about on plenty of occasions.
“It's a concentration problem. If players are used to playing at a high international level then they can he play ninety minutes with full concentration and focus.”
De Kruif came to Dhaka in 2013 and has been trying to change the way the team play.
“When I came in less then three years ago, Bangladesh was playing an old English style with long balls and from there fighting for the second ball to see what will happen.
“There were big spaces between the lines when they had the ball and when the opponent had the ball and no clear organisation in the team's tactical discipline.
“We worked on that with some Dutch style influences and we created our own game. Let's say it’s the only style I can lecture, that’s where I was brought up. My players adapted to the style very well, there's always work to do but up until now I am satisfied.”
For Bangladesh, the game, big though it undoubtedly is, is another step on the road marked “development” and a valuable look around the home of one of Asia's biggest and best.
“Football is very alive in Bangladesh. We have a population of 180 million and there are many talents. We just have to find them, give them a good football education with educated coaches.
“Create academies over the country open for different age categories. Organize youth leagues and tournaments and make a connection to school football. This way a good foundation is guaranteed.
“Step by step we are making a great progression. I want to make Bangladesh a stronger national team and professionalize all levels of football.”
And the game is not only a chance for Bangladesh to play the Asian champions in a competitive game, it is also a chance for the Dutch boss to show locals what he is capable of.
“It's a fighting job to survive in Bangladesh but I like it. I am interested to work in Australia. With my experience, education and background I expect to fit in the Australian system perfectly.”