Besides the scorching heat and the exquisite Middle Eastern cuisine of the Gulf, the national squad may never forget their humiliating 14-0 defeat to the Omanis in Muscat on March 28.
Although defeat was expected, the 14-0 scoreline came as a shock to many supporters and followers back home.
Bhutan conceded an early goal in the very second minute of the game, which is a nightmare for any coach and team. The goal came after a long-ball from Ahmed Mubarak found striker Abdulaziz Al Maqbali who was roaming freely within the Bhutanese defence lines.
The striker booted in his first of six goals pass Hari Gurung through a tight angle to give the home team the lead. The Bhutanese players looked clumsy and hesitant on the pitch with numerous miss-passes and misplaced positioning.
This is a national squad composed of Bhutan’s most elite players who have undergone fairly adequate training both in the country and in Thailand to acclimatise for the big game. However, the game on Tuesday was way below the standard expected of the national team.
The same players have competed in several international competitions, which means lack of international exposure may not be the reason. The pressure was evident; the more nimble and physically stronger Omanis dominated in every department.
The Bhutanese players seemed lost for stretches of the game. They were neither defending the goal nor attacking in the front. The team however, managed to subdue the Omani riot for 23 minutes and then the floodgates opened wide.
Al Maqbali scored a double hat trick, of which the first four goals came in the first half followed by two more in the second half. The home side averaged a goal every six minutes as they sealed a 14-0 win in Group D of the third round of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers.
Oman scored seven goals in each half. The goals were scored in the 2nd, 25th, 32nd, 35th, 40th, 43rd, 44th, 54th (OG), 68th, 71st, 76th, 87th, and 90+1 (PK) and 90+2 minutes. The score line could have been much higher.
Ranked 122 on the FIFA/Coca Cola World Ranking, which is 55 places above Bhutan, Oman made 20 on-target shots during the game to just one for Bhutan. Apart from giving away a penalty that was successfully converted by Khalid Al Hajri, Bhutan also conceded an own goal in the 54th minute.
In the past Bhutan has suffered similar defeats at the hands of some other Gulf countries. In 2000, Bhutan conceded 20 goals against Kuwait and 15 years later the team was thrashed again by Qatar 15-0 during the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
The next fixture for Bhutan doesn’t look promising with Palestine ranked 134 and Maldives ranked 140 competing in the same group of the qualifiers.