Preview: It will be an uphill task for the Dragon Boys when they will take on the defending champions, Afghanistan, in their second game of SAFF Suzuki Cup at the Trivandrum International Stadium in Kerala, India, today.

The two countries have met five times, thrice at the SAFF Championships and twice at the AFC Challenge Cup. The record stands at Afghanistan winning four of the five matches. The last match was played at the SAFF championships 2013, where Bhutan lost 3-0 to the Afghan Lions.

With a comfortable win over Bangladesh on December 24, the highest ranked team in the South Asian region sits at the top of Group B. The defending champions hope to pull off another upset for the Dragon Boys.

Bhutan has a disastrous record in the SAFF championships where it has won only one game since its debut  appearance in 2007.

On the other hand, Afghanistan, during a press conference had said that of the 28 players on the squad, 18 of them play professionally in Europe.

However, skipper Karun Gurung, is optimistic about the match. He said that mind games are a part of every big tournament. “Football is unpredictable and anything is possible. We have our plans against the Afghans,” he said. “The team who’ll play the best football on the day will win the game. We’ll give our best.”

This year saw the Bhutanese team making a mark in international football. After pulling off one of the biggest upsets by defeating Sri Lanka, Bhutan, the lowest FIFA ranked country entered the second round of the World Cup Qualifiers.

Although the team conceded a total of 48 goals in the second round of the qualifiers, many have observed improvements with the team.

After several goalless defeats in the international arena, Tshering Dorji’s goal against Maldives on December 24 should encourage the team to perform better.

Meanwhile, mixed emotions were shared by the public on the national team’s Facebook page. Goalie Hari Gurung’s commendable performance  against Maldives was widely appreciated. However, the poor performance from the rest of the team were also highlighted.

Bhutan is placed in Group B alongside the defending champions, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Maldives.

The match begins at 7pm (BST).

Younten Tshedup