Tuesday 17th March 2015
World Cup Asian Zone Round One Second Leg
Changlimithang Stadium, Thimpu, Bhutan
After their seismic and historic victory in the first leg last Thursday, Bhutan’s soon-to-be no longer worst in the world national team take on Sri Lanka again in the second leg for a place in the first group stage of Asian World Cup qualifying. They bring a 1-0 lead with them from the away leg in Colombo and will be defending a couple of 100% records in the return match.
Bhutan, having never played in the World Cup before last week, have won all (just the one) of their World Cup matches in history – the only country in the world who can claim that! They do also have a 100% record at their home ground in Thimpu in official international fixtures having won all three of their previous FIFA sanctioned home matches.
A repeat of that and Bhutan would find themselves with the rather daunting prospect of facing one of Asia’s strongest teams in the group stage. The likes of Japan, South Korea and Australia await as the seeded teams in the next round – the prospect of what they might do to Bhutan brings back horrible memories of American Samoa’s darkest day at the hands of Australia (31-0 for those unsure). But that worry is for another time, and won’t be a concern here at Worst in the World as Bhutan have already ensured they will be off the bottom come the next rankings thanks to their win last week.
Having won at low altitude in hot and sunny Colombo, Bhutan must surely be confident ahead of the return leg back up in the high Himalayas where the effects of altitude and very little acclimatisation time will hamper Sri Lanka one would expect. Sri Lanka will of course have to push on to wipe out Bhutan’s first leg advantage so hopefully that will lead to one or two exhausted players which Bhutan can take advantage of as the game, and the altitudes effects, wears on.
Thimpu’s Changlimithang Stadium is one of world football’s more scenic and frankly stunning venues. In amongst the Himalayan peaks, it is more used to hosting archery tournaments than football, but in recent years it has seen a big increase in football participation. Thanks in no small part to a GOAL programme assisted installation of artificial turf, the former quagmire pitch is now playable year round as is regularly used by club sides in the capital city allowing a far more effective level of training and coaching than was ever possible previously.
The improvement was shown last week, and here’s hoping for a continuation of that on Tuesday. Having done so well in the first leg it would be a real shame were it to all go pear-shaped now. Fingers crossed for the Druk XI tomorrow.