Are you all ready for FIFA WORLD CUP RUSSIA 2018? Well, only if you are minnows in Asia where they have just completed the second legs of the first preliminary round, TWO AND A HALF YEARS and 800 qualifying matches before the big show!!
Municipal Stadium in Dili, Timor-Liste (East Timor); Central Stadium Ulaan -Baatar; Indira Ghandi Stadium, Guwahati; Sugalhadusa Stadium, Colombo; Army Stadium, Phnom Penh; Hassan Bolkia Complex, Bandar Seri Begawan........Not exactly household names to most of us, but exciting for fans in the lower depths of the FIFA RANKINGS.
THE BIG NEWS is out of the Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu, BHUTAN where the mountain kingdom, at the very bottom of the rankings at 209, pulled off a shock win 2-1 over visiting SRI LANKA, with a brace of goals from Chencho Gyeltshen in the 5th and 90th minute. They had managed a surprise away win 1-0 in the first leg in Colombo a week ago with a goal from Tshering Dorji. Their top players are lucky to earn $200-$1,000 A YEAR and coach Chokey Nima does the job free when he gets time off as a pilot in the national airline DRUKAIR.
At 2,648 m (8,688 ft), it's the third highest capital in the world. They have now played just 60 matches since 1982 and have now won FIVE, and have not played at home in Thimphu since 2003. They lost 20-0 to Kuwait in 2000 and coach Nima played in that match. They trained in Thailand for a month prior to the first leg. The stadium held 15,000 and admission was free, with plenty of drums and trumpets in their FIRST EVER WORLD CUP CAMPAIGN. They now reach the second round of five teams....and the dream continues.
After the success of the recent first season of the Indian Super League, fans in the world's most populous democracy has hopes of a lengthy run for India's soccer team under well travelled English coach Stephen Constantine. They beat visiting Nepal (which Constantine used to coach) 2-0 at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in Guwahati, home of North-East United. Today at the Dushralh Rangusala Stadium in Kathmandu they played to a 0-0 tie to advance. Nepal are coached by American Jack Stefanowski.
East Timor (Timor-Leste), coached by Fabio Joaquim, advanced with a home 4-1 win in Dili over Mongolia and 1-0 in the away leg in freezing Ulaan Baatar with the only goal by Fabiano. Cambodia cruised through after a 3-0 home win in Phnom Phen and today tied 1-1 in Macau. The most exciting match was possibly in Brunei, the mega rich kingdom. Chinese Taipei (Taiwan to most of us) had lost 1-0 at home in the National Stadium in Kaohsiung, but scored two goals without reply with goals from Wang Ruei in the 8th minute and a second from Chu En-Le early in the second half of the away leg in Bandar Seri Begawan.
Yemen had beaten Palastine 3-1 in the first leg, played in neutral Doha, and the second leg, which would also have to be played in a neutral conflict free location has been postponed.