Be wary of Bangladesh on the counter - Masih Saighani warns India

Igor Stimac’s men will take on the 187th ranked side in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers at the Salt Lake Stadium on Tuesday; both teams will be eyeing their first win.

Masih Saighani playing in Chennaiyin's pre-season friendly against Gokulam Kerala.   -  Special Arrangement

Fresh off his spell at Abahani Dhaka, Chennaiyin FC’s new defensive midfielder Masih Saighani reckons Bangladesh will be no pushover for India in the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier.

Igor Stimac’s men will take on the 187th ranked side in a Group E encounter at the Salt Lake Stadium on Tuesday; both teams will be eyeing their first win.

In Saighani’s year-long spell at Abahani, the team had finished second in the Bangladesh Premier League and made it to the AFC Cup semifinals, qualifying ahead of his new side Chennaiyin. His contract, however, came to an end before the semifinals and he was snapped by the Indian Super League club in August.

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The Red and Green squad is dominated by eight Abahani and seven Bashundhara Kings players, and Saighani said they bring in plenty of quality which reflects in the way the team plays.

“Bashundhara Kings’ Spanish coach Oscar Bruzon has changed the way that team plays. And Dhaka’s coach Mario Lemos from Portugal also added his style to the team. These players play a passing game and press high up the pitch,” the Afghanistan international told Sportstar.

Injury concerns

Saighani, who trained with Bashundhara Kings for over a month before signing for Abahani, shed light upon the injuries which have made Bangladesh coach Jamie Day’s task a difficult one. “Their main centre-back Topu Burman, midfielder Atiqur Rahman Fahad and No. 7 central midfielder Mashuk Mia Johnny all have ACL injuries. It's such bad luck,” he said.

He picked out striker Nabib Newaj Jibon and midfielder Sohel Rana as the players to watch out for. “Jibon is an awesome player with a lot of qualities; very fast, technically very good. He is not very strong and this, maybe, is one of his problems. Emon Mahmud Babu is the main player but he is not in the squad. I don’t know why. Then we have Sohel Rana, who is very agile,” Saighani, who played for I-League side Aizawl FC in 2017-18 season, said.

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Despite not having scored in the two defeats to Afghanistan and Qatar in the qualifiers, Saighani believes Bangladesh has the pace to hurt India, which will be without defender Sandesh Jhingan, on the break. “I think just be very careful with counter-attacks. They (Bangladesh) try to stay compact. They will not try to outplay India, they will kick long and go for the second balls. India will have to be careful about not making small mistakes and avoid lapse in concentration from the first minute to last,” he said.

Bangladesh's Sohel Rana (second from left) in action against Qatar at the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier fixture on Thursday.   -  REUTERS


Return to India

Although the midfielder signed for CFC in August, he missed the pre-season trips to Ahmedabad and Jamshedpur due to late arrival of visa. He made his first appearance for the club in the friendly against Gokulam Kerala FC on Tuesday; playing for 80-odd minutes.

“It was very important for me to adapt with the team and understand what the coach (John Gregory) needed. It was very difficult because I lost four weeks of pre-season and my body felt that. Still, I was happy to get through 80 minutes,” he said.

He has his eyes set on the team’s ISL opener against last year’s finalist FC Goa on October 23. “We still have two weeks to get ready for FC Goa. Even now if I am tired in training sometimes, my personal goal is to be fit for the game on the 23rd,” said Saighani.

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