Tuesday 17th March 2015
World Cup Asian Zone Round One Second Leg
Changlimithang Stadium, Thimphu, Bhutan
Bhutan 2-1 Sri Lanka (3-1 aggregate)
Oh my word. It doesn’t rain, it pours. Bhutan’s World Cup record now stands at a magnificent two wins out of two matches played all-time, still a 100% record. Two goals from defender Chencho Gyeltshen, the second of which came as the match reached stoppage time in a dramatic conclusion, has seen Bhutan knock Sri Lanka out of the World Cup and qualify for the first group stage of Asian qualifying. There they will come up against four other teams, with their seeded opponent potentially being one of Asia’s real powers: Japan, Australia, South Korea or Iran. I’m giddy at the prospect.
Bringing a 1-0 lead from the away leg last Thursday, Bhutan took the lead in Thimphu in the early exchanges in front of a capacity crowd, all of whom had been admitted into the national stadium for free. Such are the benefits of life in a modern-day Shangri-la where Gross National Happiness is the order of the day.
That happiness was under threat when Sri Lanka equalised after 35 minutes. At 1-1, another Sri Lankan goal would have put them through on away goals; an unthinkable prospect given Bhutan’s wonderful achievement in winning the away leg. As Sri Lanka pushed on in the latter stages, they fell to the sucker punch goal from Gyeltshen as Bhutan completed a second win in a week and a thrilling qualification for the next round.
With two wins in a week, more in a week than they’d managed for years, Bhutan will of course be no longer ranked as the worst in the world when the next rankings are published in April. Their replacement in last place is currently set to be Anguilla, though they have the opportunity to prevent that happening when they take on Nicaragua on Friday in the opening round of CONCACAF World Cup qualification. While that match won’t be officially a worst in the world fixture as Anguilla are yet to confirmed in last place, they are in effect holding that position and we will be paying close attention to events in Nicaragua.