Dhaka, Oct 17 (EFE).- Spanish football coach Javier Cabrera inspired Bangladesh to the qualifying round of the World Cup 2026 with a 2-1 win over the Maldives in the second leg of the pre-qualifying match in Dhaka on Tuesday.
Bangladesh advanced to the next round with a 3-2 win aggregate after the first leg between the two teams ended in a 1-1 stalemate in Male last week.
The win pits Bangladesh against Australia, Palestine, and Lebanon in Group I for the Asian qualifying round of the World Cup, to be hosted jointly by the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Bangladesh, ranked 189th in men’s football, began the contest as underdogs against the Maldives, who are ranked 155th.
But goals from Rakib Hossain and Foysal Fahim either side of Ibrahim Aisham’s strike helped Bangladesh overcome the hurdle, bringing a rare success for the South Asian side.
Bangladesh is known for its football craze, with images of the country’s fans celebrating the wins of Argentina and Brazil in the World Cup in Qatar last year catching global attention.
However, fans have not had many opportunities to celebrate the success of their national team.
The scenario began to change after Cabrera, a former academy coach of La Liga side Deportivo Alaves, joined Bangladesh as head coach in 2022.
Under him, Bangladesh qualified for the semi-final of the South Asian Championship in June-July for the first time in 14 years.
Bangladesh, who lost to Kuwait in the semi-final of the biennial competition in India, had been eliminated from the first round in the previous five editions.
They were staring at an early exit from the World Cup qualifying campaign after being drawn with the Maldives, a team that had been unbeaten in official competition against Bangladesh for 17 years until the recent SAFF championship.
In the Asian qualifiers, 20 lower-ranked teams played against selected opponents home and away over two legs.
The 10 winners joined 26 top-ranked Asian sides in the second round of the qualifying competition.
Apart from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Singapore, Yemen, Myanmar, Pakistan, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Nepal also won their respective two-leg pre-qualifying matches to advance to the second round. EFE