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SAFF Championship 2013: Team Profile – Bhutan
Amoy Ghoshal, August 26, 2013
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Bhutan gave India a scare in the 2008 SAFF Championship

Sportskeeda continues the buildup to next month’s SAFF Championship by profiling each of the eight participating nations.

 

Here, we have a look at the lowest-ranked team of the subcontinent, Bhutan.

FIFA Ranking: 207

AFC Ranking: 46

History

At 207, Bhutan are above only two other nations (San Marino and Turks & Caicos Islands) in the world rankings. There is not much difference in the standards of most teams in South Asia but Bhutan are perhaps the only minnows.

Although their first official match took place in 1982, Bhutan only became a member of FIFA in 2002 and played their first SAFF Championship in 2003.

However, their most high profile game in international football came on the day Brazil defeated Germany in the 2002 World Cup final. A few hours before that match kicked off, Bhutan took on Montserrat in Thimpu in a match between two of the lowest ranked teams in the world with Bhutan being second from bottom.

The match was jokingly referred to as the ‘Other Cup final’, an event organised by Dutch filmmakers. Bhutan ran out 4-0 winners and it was their first-ever win in international football.

Eleven years on, Bhutan remains one of the minnows and due to infrastructure problems, they haven’t even entered in the World Cup qualifiers. Besides the SAFF Championship, the other tournaments they have taken part are the Asian Cup and AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers.

But Bhutanese football received a boost in 2012 when FIFA president Sepp Blatter paid a visit to inaugurate some new football pitches and later that year their first-ever national domestic league was also launched. It’s a long road ahead for this landlocked country but the only way is up.

SAFF Championship Best Performance: Semi-finalist (2008)

SAFF Championship History

Bhutan gave India a scare in the 2008 SAFF Championship

Bhutan gave India a scare in the 2008 SAFF Championship

Bhutan have appeared in five previous editions of the SAFF Championship and have crashed out of the group stage after finishing bottom on four occasions.

The only exception came in 2008 when they surprised everyone by reaching the semi-finals. Bhutan started that campaign with just one point in their first two games but a 3-1 win over Afghanistan set up a semi-final showdown with holders and favourites India.

Anyone expecting a cakewalk for Bob Houghton’s India were shocked as Bhutan went in front and despite Sunil Chhetri’s equaliser, the minnows remained in the contest until the 120th minute when Gouramangi Singh’s winner broke their hearts.

Bhutan had finally made their mark in the SAFF Championship but unfortunately couldn’t build on that as in the next two editions they lost six straight matches, conceding 33 goals.

Current Team

Bhutan doesn’t have enough professional players and also lacks quality to make their mark even in South Asia. Due to financial constraints, the national team hardly gets to play at international level.

Their only game of 2012 was a 5-0 defeat against Thailand in an international friendly and that’s the only match Japanese coach Kazunori Ohara has been in charge of since taking the job last year.

Ohara selected 22 players for the preparatory camp with the majority coming from Yeedzin FC, winners of the inaugural Bhutan national domestic league and participants at the 2013 AFC President’s Cup.

Bhutan will be the overwhelming underdogs agains

Bhutan will be the overwhelming underdogs agains

Ohara and the Bhutanese faithful will be encouraged by the fact their domestic winners Yeedzin FC did beat clubs from Bangladesh and Nepal to finish runners-up in the recently concluded Bhutan King’s Cup.

However, with no proper match practice and just a camp ahead of the tournament, Ohara faces an uphill task in next month’s SAFF Championship just like his predecessors at previous editions.

22-member squad for the preparatory camp:

Goalkeepers: Leki, Hem Lal, Migma Tshering.

Defenders: Pema Rinchen, Dawa Gyeltshen, Kinley Tenzing, Nim Sangay, Monach Gurung, Karan gurung, Pema.

Midfielders: Passang Tshering, Tshering Dorji, Thinley Dorji, Biran, Chencho, Ratu, Upay, Sonam Yeozer.

Forwards: Wangdi, Yeshey Dorji, Chencho Gyeltshen, Sonam Tenzin.

Key Players

Pema Rinchen

The 27-year-old central defender is Bhutan’s most-capped player with 30 international appearances and was also a member of the team that reached the semi-finals in 2008. Rinchen’s experience will be vital for a Bhutan squad that lacks international exposure.

Passang Tshering

The 30-year-old versatile attacker is one of the most renowned players in Bhutan’s domestic circuit and will be expected to play an important role in next month’s SAFF Championship. Tshering, who can play both as an attacking midfielder and striker, would be aiming to add to his international goals tally.

SAFF 2013 Group: Afghanistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bhutan

SAFF 2013 Fixtures

 

September 2: Afghanistan; September 4: Maldives; September 6: Sri Lanka.

SAFF 2013 Expectations

Bhutan did beat Afghanistan five years ago but since then the Afghans have gone on to become the highest ranked team in South Asia so Bhutan would just be happy to manage a respectable scoreline in their opener. Their second match against Maldives is another daunting prospect but on paper at least, the final group game against Sri Lanka presents Bhutan’s best opportunity of getting a result.

Ohara and his players can take inspiration from the 2008 edition and will surely relish being the underdogs. But in truth, the best Bhutan can hope for is three fighting performances so even a point from the group stage will be an achievement.-Sportskeeda

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