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Football: Although China is a strong team in Asia, the head coach of team Bhutan, Norio Tsukitate, at a press conference in Thimphu yesterday, said he had strategies to overcome them in the match.

Dragons go head to head

There is an air of optimism about Team Bhutan, grounded by realism

Football: Although China is a strong team in Asia, the head coach of team Bhutan, Norio Tsukitate, at a press conference in Thimphu yesterday, said he had strategies to overcome them in the match.

The coach refused to share his strategies, but said that each player would play their best football as a team.  Coach Norio said that the Chinese had a first-class strategic coach, but he said he wasn’t deterred. “I know how to move the Chinese players,” coach Norio said.

The coach added that the Hong Kong game had not intimidated the players for today’s match. “I don’t remember the Hong Kong game anymore. We just need to give our best,” he said. 

Coach Norio said Bhutan has just started to play football and that the team has a long way to go. “But we’ve the talent and energy to go far in this game,” he said.

Team China, which arrived in the country two days ago, had their first practice session on June 14.  Alain Perrin, the head coach of Team Dragon, during the press conference, said it would be a great pleasure to take back home some happiness from the kingdom of happiness. “For our team, that happiness would be to win and take the three points,” he said.

Coach Alain Perrin added that it is always difficult to play away matches, and playing on artificial turf was different. “Our full focus will be on the game, and we need to concentrate on our defense and try to score quick goals,” he said. “All that matters at the end is the win and the three points.”

Zheng Zhi, the skipper and the most experienced player in the Chinese squad, who was also present at the press conference, said Bhutan was a beautiful country but they weren’t here for sightseeing. “We’re here for the win and the three important points,” he said.

The 35-year-old midfielder said that the first match of any tournament is  difficult. He said that, although Bhutan lost to Hong Kong, this was a different game.  Also, this was Bhutan’s home game where the odds of winning were always higher. “This is an important away game for us and a win here should give us a good start in the tournament,” Zheng Zhi said.

Early in the morning yesterday, the Chinese team visited Kuensel Phodrang.  The coach said it was the Buddhist belief to pray and ask for blessings before a big event.  However, he said, the players needed to focus on the game, along with the prayers and blessings. “This is the time for action,” he said.

The battle of the two dragons will be held at the Changlimithang stadium, the iconic structure where no Bhutanese national team has ever lost a game.  On whether the record would still stand at the end of the 90 minutes, the skipper of team Bhutan, Karma Shedrup Tshering, said people should be realistic with their expectations. “We’ll fight till the end, and the rest will be clear at the end of the 90 minutes,” he said.

The president of Bhutan Football Federation, Ugen Tshechup Dorji, said team Bhutan had achieved a lot just by qualifying into the second round of the World Cup qualifiers. “The result of the match today is inevitable, but we need to be optimistic and look beyond the results,” he said.

He said that the tournament had improved the standard of football in the country. “We’ll grow from this experience,” he said. “To the players, fight till the end and give 100 percent of your capability. Win or lose, we’re behind you. You all have made us proud.”

Meanwhile, a group of supporters, Support Team Bhutan, has gathered cardboards and painted the national flag to be used during the match.  The group has also composed a song in support for the Dragon Boys.

By Younten Tshedup

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