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Looking ahead to home advantage

Football: Team Bhutan will be returning home with a major advantage following a momentous victory in their first World Cup qualifier campaign in Sri Lanka.

Coach Chokey Nima and his boys will be entering the second leg of the qualifiers with one away-goal advantage. A win or draw should comfortably take the Dragon Boys into the second round of the qualifiers where they will face the likes of Asian heavy weights: Japan, Iran and South Korea.

.However, if team Bhutan loses with a goal difference of two at home then the Sri Lankans will qualify for the next round. But should the Sri Lankans win with a lone goal then extra time would occur followed by a penalty shoot out.

The venue for the home match is Changlimithang stadium. The iconic stadium which was built on the site of a decisive battle in 1885 to unify the country has so far, not been favourable for visiting teams.

A home match is always an advantage for any home team. A Bhutanese national team has not lost a single international match at Changlimithang.

Of the three international matches played at the stadium, the Bhutanese national team has scored 10 goals while not conceding a single one.

The performance of the lowest ranked team in the world (209) in beating Sri Lanka, which was ranked 35 places higher, drew praise from even FIFA president Sepp Blatter who described it as “a wonderful, historic moment” on Twitter.

The highest FIFA ranking Bhutan has been able to achieve is 187 in 2003.

But for 24-year-old captain Karma Shedrup Tshering the world ranking is just a number. “It is not a reflection of our performance, but the [very low] frequency of matches that we have played.” He said.

Social networking sites have been flooded with well wishes for the team from supporters from all around the world. The team considers their supporters their 12th player. With all these advantages it is safe to assume that the visiting team will be under pressure.

The Bhutanese supporters in Sri Lanka also wrote on social media that they were allowed to cheer for team Bhutan without any hindrance and that the national team was not subjected to any abusive or insulting language by Sri Lankan supporters. They requested that the Sri Lankan team also be treated in the same way by the home crowd.

As a gesture of appreciation, a group of supporters will welcome home the national team at Paro airport today.

The match on March 17 is scheduled to kick off at 4pm and the entrance is free for all.

By Younten Tshedup 

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