The CNMI Men's National Team will get its first taste of European-style game when its faces Bangladesh on March 4 in the Asian Football Confederation 2014 Challenge Cup Qualifiers in Kathmandu, Nepal.
“Bangladesh plays European-style football and is coached by a European. They are also very skilled so they are a huge challenge for us,” Blue Ayuyus goalkeeper Johann Noetzel said last week before the team left Saipan.
Europe's brand of football involves more physical games, tighter defense that limits space for movement, and more team plays that rely on direct passing between players. This European approach will continue to be implemented at the Bengal Tigers' camp after they got a new coach in Dutch Lodewijk de Kruif. The former pro who played for TOP Oss in the Netherlands in the early '90s took over the coaching reigns for Bangladesh from former national player Saiful Bari Titu just last month.
With Bangladesh's European-style play, the debuting Blue Ayuyus are expecting a tougher match against the Bengal Tigers than their first game versus host Nepal this Saturday. However, though they are facing a more difficult game against Bangladesh, the CNMI is hoping to capitalize on the injury plagued Bengal Tigers.
Jershwin Angeles, who is part of the coaching staff that trained the Blue Ayuyus on Saipan since September, said FIFA ranked No. 168 Bangladesh is missing several key players for the qualifier. Angeles is talking of veteran striker Zahid Hasan Emily, winger Zahid Hossain, defender Rezaul Karim, and goalkeeper Mustaqur Rahman, who were excluded on the Bengal Tigers' 23-player roster due to various injuries.
Kruif admitted that the absence of the four players, who are among the top pros in the Bangladesh league, is a big blow and the Bengal Tigers will now rely on some newcomers and veteran midfielder and captain Mohammad Sujan.
Sujan despite the absence of their key players believe they still have strong team and have a good chance of advancing to the finals, while Kruif said Bangladesh's will have a hard time against Palestine and must be cautious against the CNMI.
“Nobody knows anything about Northern Mariana Islands, but I think we can't underestimate this opponent,” Kruif said in an a story posted at the Nepal football's website .
Kruit is hoping to give Bangladesh its first international win this year after the Bengal Tigers went winless in three matches last year. Bangladesh drew Malaysia and Nepal in friendly matches in 2012, posting similar scores of 1-1, and then bowed to Thailand, 0-5.
Meanwhile, the Blue Ayuyus jogged and performed drills at the Nepal Army Physical Training Centre last Tuesday afternoon. The visiting team is adjusting to the cold weather and the players are in good shape.