Following her independence from Pakistan achieved at the end of 1971, the Bangladesh football team played its first official game on July 26, 1973, a 2-2 draw against Thailand. During the period between July 26 and August 14, 1973, the national team played 13 friendly matches against Asian teams, all hosted in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, resulting in 3 draws and 10 defeats. One year later, the national team played 2 more friendlies, this time in Bangkok, and were defeated twice more.
The next official matches came in 1978, 2 friendly games against Malaysia and India, also in Bangkok, finished once more as defeats. In January 1979, the qualification tournament for the 1980 AFC Asian Cup began and – surprisingly considering their previous record – Bangladesh opened their campaign with draws against Afghanistan and Qatar. A heavy 4–0 defeat against Qatar followed, but a 4–1 win over the Afghans, the team's first ever victory, saw them qualify for the tournament.
In preparation for the Asian Cup, Bangladesh played four more friendly matches, losing three of them (notably a 9–0 thrashing by South Korea) but scoring their second win, 3–1 over Sri Lanka.
The 1980 AFC Asian Cup was held in September 1980 in Kuwait, and Bangladesh were grouped with defending champions Iran as well as North Korea, Syria and China. The Bangladeshis opened the tournament respectably with narrow defeats to the North Koreans (3–2) and Syrians (1–0) but were embarrassed 7–0 and 6–0 respectively by Iran and China, finishing the tournament bottom of their table with a goal difference of -15. This was the only time that Bangladesh have qualified for a major tournament.
In 1982, after a year and a half without any matches, the team played four games in Karachi, Pakistan, again suffering, 3 defeats and a draw, with a heavy 9–0 loss, this time to Iran. The next five friendlies yielded 2 victories and 3 defeats, and by the 1984, the team had only 4 victories, in 10 years.
The qualifiers for the 1984 AFC Asian Cup took place in August of that year, with Bangladesh matched with Iran and Syria from the 1980 tournament alongside Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Bangladesh lost all but one of their games, a 3–2 defeat of the Philippines to salvage a little pride after yet another mauling by Iran.
A month later, the team played friendlies against Maldives and Nepal and handed out two thrashings of their own for a change, winning both games 5–0. But Nepal answered the day after, defeating Bangladesh 4–2.
In 1985 the team made its first attempt to qualify for the World Cup,grouped with India, Indonesia and Thailand. Two wins from six saw Bangladesh finish bottom of their group.
From April 1985 to November 1987 team played 13 games, registering 4 victories, 2 draws and 7 defeats, before failing to qualify for either the 1988 AFC Asian Cup or the 1990 FIFA World Cup, posting just one win in the eleven games they played over both tournaments (a 3–1 defeat of Thailand in World Cup qualifying).
From 1989 to 1991, the team played 8 matches, gaining 3 victories, 1 draw and 4 defeats, before failing once again to qualify for the Asian Cup, this time thanks to a 6–0 drubbing by South Korea. Two years later, the qualifying tournament for the 1994 FIFA World Cup involved 8 matches – Bangladesh's longest ever campaign, but no more successful – only a pair of victories over Sri Lanka prevented a complete whitewash which included 8–0 and 7–0 thrashings at the hands of Japan and United Arab Emirates respectively.
The team's fortunes in regional competitions improved – the SAFF Gold Cup in 1999, held in Goa, saw Bangladesh again reach the final and lose to India, picking up another silver medal, and at 1999 South Asian Games held in Kathmandu the team finally took the extra step and won the gold medal, the first tournament win in the team's history. However, they were unable to parlay this into a successful qualification for the 2000 Asian Cup and failed to recover from an opening 6–0 thrashing by Uzbekistan.
A historic moment occurred for the Bangladesh team on 12 January 2001, when they played their first match against a team from outside Asia, a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina, who won 2–0.
Since 2000, the team have rarely looked like qualifying for either the Asian Cup or the World Cup (with successive first-round eliminations by Tajikistan in 2006 and 2010, but the same period has brought a tournament title being champions of SAFF Championship in 2003 as tournament host. Bangladesh won their second gold medal in South Asian Games at 2010 South Asian Games as tournament host.
On 29 June 2011 at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh beat Pakistan 3-0 in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. They went on to play Pakistan again at Punjab Stadium, Lahore on 3 July 2011 where they drew 0-0. This allowed the Bangladesh team to move on to the second round to play against Lebanon. The first game was played in Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium, Beirut on 23 July 2011 where Bangladesh lost 4-0. The second game was played in Bangabandhu National Stadium, Dhaka where Bangladesh won 2-0. Since Lebanon was able to score more goals out of the two games they advanced to the third round eliminating Bangladesh. Bangladesh couldn't qualify into the semifinal of 2011 SAFF Championship as they had drawn against Pakistan but lost to Nepal and Maldives in group stage.
Bangladesh played three international friendly matches in 2012. They managed to draw against Nepal by 1-1. They started their South-east Asian tour by a heavy 5-0 defeat to Thailand but drawn against Malaysia by 1-1.