September 4 - 10, 2019

Gulf Weekly Naman Arora
By Naman Arora


Fresh off their victory in the West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) championship, the Bahrain National Football squad and their coach Helio Sousa are stepping up their training programme to meet the challenge of the upcoming FIFA and Asia Cup qualifiers.

The squad will be playing in Group C and will be up against Iran, Iraq, Hong Kong and Cambodia, of which Iraq and Iran will be the big ones to beat. Even though Bahrain defeated Iraq 1-0 in the finals of the WAFF Cup, the titan team will be bringing nine experienced players previously unseen at the WAFF game.

Coach Sousa, who led the Portuguese Under-19 team to their first-ever UEFA championship in 2018 before taking the helm of the Bahrain team earlier this year, believes the national squad is up to the challenge as he trains them to focus on the game holistically, instead of just the ball possession time.

Coach Sousa said: “We are working to improve both the fitness and tactical capabilities of the team as a whole. The way we eat, the meals we take, how quickly we recover from our training sessions, all of these come into play as we build our offensive and defensive capacity.

“More importantly, we want to be a team that plays hard even when we don’t have possession of the ball. We have definitely improved that metric as well, but we are developing our defensive capabilities as well. We want to be able to consistently pressure high and defend low. And this takes time and strict training.

“Our game with Iraq has shown us that we are on the right track but don’t want to get complacent. We were able to keep the shots on goal low. We want to build on this capacity as we head into the qualifiers. “

The summer has been an active one for the team. Before the WAFF cup, they went through a training camp in Portugal in July where they played against some of the top clubs in the country.

They took this momentum into the WAFF cup, which helped them stay on target and come out on top. However, the qualifiers, which are both for the FIFA and the Asia cup, will be a new playing field, even when playing at home.

“There is a really strong football culture here, much like Portugal,” said Coach Sousa. “Yes, the national squad here has different strengths but what is the same is that there is a huge support base to cheer on the team and we look forward to seeing them at the home games.”

GulfWeekly would like to wish the boys the best of luck as Bahrain plays Iraq tomorrow evening at the Bahrain National Stadium in Riffa at 7:30pm.

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