Bahrain’s under-23 football team will leave for Hangzhou, China, this evening to give themselves adequate time to get used to local conditions ahead of their first game on Tuesday in the 2023 Asian Games.
The kingdom’s team has been slotted in a tough, four-team preliminary round group with Thailand, Kuwait and South Korea placed alongside them in Group C.
Bahrain play Thailand in their first match next Tuesday before taking on Kuwait two days later. Their final preliminary round game is against South Korea on September 24.
“We are in a very difficult group so we will have to raise our game to compete against three very good sides,” head coach Dario Basic told the GDN.
“Our first aim, of course, is to qualify for the second round. But, in order to do that, we will have to perform as we did against Japan in the last game of the recently concluded 2024 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Asian Cup Qualifiers.”
Bahrain’s Olympic football side is essentially comprised of players from the country’s U-23 team of which Basic is the head coach.
And the U-23 team gave a very good account of themselves in the Asian Cup Qualifiers with their only loss occurring in the first game against Palestine, who won 1-0. Bahrain beat Pakistan 3-1 in the second game and held table-leaders Japan – who had won both their first two games and had already qualified for the main tournament – to a spirited 0-0 draw in their final match last Tuesday but missed out on qualification because Palestine defeated Pakistan in their last game to secure second place in the table.
“We played a very good game against Japan,” Basic explained.
“We were very organised, our passing was on point and we didn’t allow one of the best teams in Asia to score even one goal against us. If not for some missed opportunities by us, we could have won that match.
“And I want my players to repeat that performance. Because of the Asian Cup Qualifiers, most of them are match-hardened and match-ready so I’m expecting them to do well in the Asian Games.”
Importantly, Basic added, a few players who had had small injuries or niggles were shaping up well.
“Hopefully, we won’t have any more problems with injuries,” he said.
“But we’ve had another issue. Some of the players play for local clubs here who have not released them so the makeup of our squad isn’t the same as it was in the Asian Cup Qualifiers.
“But the replacement players are just as good and the few days we’ll have in Hangzhou before our first game will give them the chance to get some good practice in. So we’re still a strong team and our sights are set on our first target which is to qualify for the second round.”
The multi-sport Asian Games will officially kick off on September 23rd with a spectacular opening ceremony but some sports – football among them – will start their competitions a few days in advance.