Bangladesh will take on Sri Lanka in their opening match of the 2021 Saff Championship next Friday in the Maldives capital.
Ahead of the 13th edition of the regional football tournament, Bangladesh's Spanish head coach Oscar Bruzon announced a 26-member preliminary squad Wednesday.
Here are five Bangladesh players to watch out for as the men in red and green bid to lift the title for only the second time in history after 2003.
Topu Barman (defender)
Bangladesh's best all-round defender at the moment is Topu. The 26-year old played for Mohammedan Sporting Club Limited and Abahani Ltd before joining Bashundhara Kings in 2019. Topu made his debut for Bangladesh at the senior level in 2013 and has since appeared in 38 international matches. Topu has four international goals, three of which were scored in the 2018 Saff Championship. Topu is expected to display his real talent and lead Bangladesh's defence in the regional football tournament.
Anisur Rahman Zico (goalkeeper)
The 24-year old has been able to change his fortunes after joining the Kings in 2018. He has displayed his real talent after taking over as the team's No 1 goalkeeper. Zico is well known for his penalty-saving abilities. He was in the spotlight and played a key part for the Kings during the 2019-2020 AFC Cup. Zico has become the No 1 goalkeeper for the Bangladesh football team following his inspiring performance with Bashundhara. He made his senior debut against Nepal on November 13, 2020, and has since made seven appearances for the Bangladesh national team. Zico will be crucial to Bangladesh's chances of reaching the final of the Saff Championship. So he is undeniably one of Bangladesh's most important players in the squad.
Tariq Kazi (defender)
Bangladeshi origin 20-year old right-wing back Kazi was born in 2000 in Finland. Kazi is considered one of the country's most gifted footballers. He represented Finland at the U-17, U-18, and U-19 levels. He also played for Finland's first division league team Ilves from 2017 to 2019 before relocating to Bangladesh in 2020. He has been a part of Bashundhara since then and made his national team debut this year. Kazi has made five appearances for Bangladesh's senior team and established himself as a first-choice right-back for both club and country. Kazi's ability to rush to the opposition's half for a quick counterattack, as well as his defensive strategy, will benefit Bangladesh in the Saff Championship.
Eleta Kingsley (forward)
The 32-year old Nigeria-born Eleta received Bangladeshi citizenship in March 2021. He has been eligible to represent Bangladesh since getting the passport. Eleta received his first call-up from Bruzon for the Saff Championship after a six-month wait. Eleta played for a number of Bangladeshi clubs before joining Bashundhara this year. He had his most productive time while playing for Team BJMC from 2015 to 2019. He scored 25 goals in 29 appearances for BJMC. Bangladesh will benefit from Eleta's height, strength, and shooting skills during the competition.
Jamal Bhuiyan (midfielder)
The captain of Bangladesh football team, Jamal was born in 1990 in Denmark. Jamal is a defensive midfielder who previously played for a number of Danish clubs before moving to Bangladesh permanently in 2014.
He made his debut for the national team against Nepal in the 2013 Saff Championship. Jamal has 51 senior appearances and is widely regarded as the country's best player.
He will have to inspire Bangladesh on the pitch during the upcoming competition. Jamal's performance would undoubtedly make a difference in Bangladesh's championship aspirations.