Football: Bhutan will play Hong Kong in their first away-game of the second round of the World Cup preliminary qualification round-two on June 11.

Hong Kong is ranked at 167, four places below Bhutan, in the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World ranking. Hong Kong has never qualified for the World Cup. However, their most celebrated victory came during the 1986 World Cup qualification against China where they defeated the Chinese 2-1 but were knocked out by the Japanese in the following game.

Hong Kong played its first international match against South Korea in 1949, however, its first victory came in 1953, a 4-0 win against South Korea. The team also qualified for three of the first four editions of the Asian Cup including a third place finish in 1956 as the hosts.

Dan Ito, a Japanese professional player who plays for local club Thimphu FC once played for a local club in Hong Kong. He said that he is looking forward to the match between the two countries.

Ito said that the Bhutanese team has a fair chance of winning against his former club mates who now play on the Hong Kong national team. He said that the chances are higher during the home match. “For foreign players like me, the altitude is a big problem. Bhutanese players should capitalise on it,” he said.

According to Ito, Bhutanese football fans should look out for the mid-fielder, Lam Kawai and striker Chan Suki in the Hong Kong national squad.

The head coach of the Bhutanese national football team, Tsukitate Norio, said that the team has an uphill task ahead. According to coach Norio all four teams (China, Qatar, Maldives and Hong Kong) are equally strong. “We need to practice more if we want to win any of the eight matches,” he said.

Considering the unpredictability of the game, the Japanese coach said that currently the focus should be on basic training of the players. “They need to learn to attack and at the same time and defend, it’s not going to be easy for us,” coach Norio said.

Although, almost all the players are engaged in the ongoing Yanmar Thimphu Premier League, the Dragon Boys have been already training under the new Japanese coach for almost a month.

By Younten Tshedup