BAHRAIN coach Helio Sousa is confident that his team will do well in tonight’s friendly match against the visiting Panama side at the Bahrain National Stadium but says the experience his players will gain from the game will be more important than even a victory.
The game is the second of three international friendly matches arranged by the Bahrain Football Association (BFA) this season in order to get some much-needed match practice for the national side.
“Of course, we would like to win,” Sousa, who has been the Bahrain coach since 2019, told the GDN. “We want to win every game. This one won’t be any different. But it is the experience our players will gain that will have more relevance in the long run.”
Bahrain lost 1-2 to Cape Verde in the first match last Friday in a highly-competitive game that belied its ‘friendly’ tag.
“That was a good game,” Sousa, who played for his native Portugal before switching to coaching, said. “We didn’t get the result we wanted but it was good to face adversity at the start of the season. The Cape Verde team had the upper hand because they had played several matches coming into the game while our last international fixture was a few months ago.
“Despite that, we came back into the game after being 1-0 down. We created plenty of opportunities to be able to draw level at 2-2 also, but, ultimately, we couldn’t. It’s all part of the learning curve, though.”
Panama would present a different kind of challenge, Sousa added.
“For one, they are ranked higher than Cape Verde,” he explained. “Also, we expect them to demonstrate a different style of play. Panama like to work the spaces and they have seasoned players with the capacity to control the game. Our players will benefit greatly from playing against such a high-quality side.”
Panama are also currently higher than the hosts in the Fifa world rankings, occupying 61st place to Bahrain’s 85th position.
But Sousa wasn’t bothered by the visitors’ higher ranking.
“That is good for our players,” he stressed. “We want to test ourselves against strong opposition. We want to gain the experience that comes from playing against teams that field world-class footballers. We know we have the capacity to challenge them and we will try to go for a win!”
Panama squad: Orlando Mosquera, Cesar Samudio, Eduardo Anderson, Fidel Escobar, Andres Andrade, Jose Cordoba, Cesar Blackman, Michael Murillo, Adalberto Carrasquilla, Cristian Martinez, Cesar Yanis, Angel Orelien, Martim Moran, Jorge Mendez, Romeesh Ivey, Azarias Londono, Ismael Diaz, Eduardo Guerrero.
Bahrain squad: Ammar Abbas, Ameen Hassan, Waleed Al Hayyam, Sayed Dhiya Saeed, Hamad Al Shamshan, Ali Madan, Mohamed Marhoon, Abdulla Yusuf Helal, Abdulwahab Almalood, Mahdi Abdullatif, Mohammed Alromaihi, Ali Haram, Jassim Alshaikh, Sayed Ridha Isa, Mohammed Adel, Komail Alaswad, Mahdi Humaidan, Sayed Mohamed Jaffar, Ebrahim Lutfalla, Rashid Alhooty, Jassim Alsalama, Abdulaziz Mohamed, Hussain Alkhayyat, Ebrahim Alkhatal
After the Panama game, Bahrain’s next friendly match will be against Serbia, also at home on November 18. Serbia, who have qualified for the 2022 World Cup Finals in Qatar, will use the game as part of their preparation for the tournament.
The match tonight is scheduled for a 7pm kick-off.