Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy Trails #207-197

There are 207 Fifa Member Nations. The World Cup format invites 32. That means that 175 countries will have to bite the dust long before a ball bounces around Brazil. So, from time to time we'll post blogs like this, keeping you up to date on the teams that have just been eliminated, thereby quashing the fevered dreams of young boys and old men who really really thought that this could be Macau, or Vanuatu, or Canada's year.

There are a few countries that decided not to compete this time around, so rather than bid them adieu we'll do the proper Montanan thing and simply nod silently in stoic acknowledgement of their presence (or lack thereof). So here's a quiet, two fingers up on the steering wheel salute to you Guam (207), Brunei Darussalam (206), and Bhutan (205).

Now let's say goodbye to the teams who tried, and failed, to advance and acknowledge just what we fans will miss without them.

204 "Jongin" Macau
Why they lost: Macau got--there's really no polite way to say this--decimated by Vietnam. 6-0 and 7-1, leaving Macau with a -13 goal difference in two matches. I'm not an expert or anything, but losing by 13 goals in the first round makes it hard to win the World Cup.
Who/What we'll miss: Besides the loosest slots in all Asia? Probably Chan Kin Seng Macau's leading goal scorer despite the fact that he's only played 21 matches for the local side.

203 "Hau ba lai" Timor Leste
Why they lost: It's not easy to win a home and away series when both of the matches are played in your opponents capital. Hence, though the "Rising Sun" made a strong showing in the first match (2-1), the second one (5-0) was just too much and the team has still never won an official match against another national side.
Who/What we'll miss: The Portuguese heritage means that Timor Leste has a deep connection to two futbol mad nations (Portugal & Brazil). The most promising young player is probably defender Chris Nunez who plays for a club in Australia and has scored a goal for the national team

202 "Poittu Varen" Sri Lanka
Why they lost: Despite a solid 1-1 draw in Columbo; Sri Lanka could not muster another result in Manila and fell to the Philippines 5-1 on aggregate.
Who/What we'll miss: Sri Lanka may not have any famous players, but they do have one of the coolest flags in the world. Seriously, it's a lion holding a sword! Lions themselves are intimidating, but lions armed with weaponry? Jeepers

201 "Khuda Hafiz" Pakistan
Why they lost: A hard fought 0-0 draw against Bangladesh (aka East Pakistan) wasn't bad, but it could not make up for a 3-0 loss in Dhaka in the first leg.
Who/What we'll miss: There are a few Pakistani players starting to make inroads in to the lower levels of British football, but the biggest loss has to be Pakistan's Federation Emblem. Yes the Green shirts might have my favorite logo of all the flaming footballs of DOOM!!!

200 "Khuda Hafez" Afghanistan
Why they lost: Leaving aside the larger geopolitical issue of trying to field a futbol team while simultaneously fighting insurgent terrorist groups for control of a nation; Afghanistan was already in a hole after losing 2-0 to Palestine in Tajikstan (not exactly home either). A solid 1-1 draw in Palestine was some solace, but not enough to win the day.
Who/What we'll miss: With some national team players as young as 19, our biggest loss is the story of young boys who came of age in a very different nation, survived an incredibly dangerous period and now are thriving young athletes. Maybe, 2018 will give them that shot.

199 "Lia Suhn Hao-y" Cambodia
Why they lost: The Angkor Warriors may be the biggest surprise loser in the first round of AFC qualifying. After a 4-2 win over Laos in Pehnom Penh, they seemed to have a great shot of moving on to face China. But in Laos they not only lost the match 6-2, but the series on an 8-6 aggregate score.
Who/What we'll miss: There's not much notable about Cambodia's squad, but they do have a record of firing coaches. They've gone through 5 in the last 3 years...including 2 who never seem to have coached an official match....crazy coaching carousels, always enjoyable.

198 "Bayarti" Mongolia
Why they lost: The blue wolves won 1-0 at home...but that margin never feels exactly safe and sure enough, after Myanmar won 2-0 in Myanmar (stupid Junta!), Mongolia was headed home empty handed.
Who/What we'll miss: No Mongolian player plies their trade with a foreign club, and no without them sticking around for more matches this will be our last chance to say some absolutely exquisite names, such as: "Bayasgalangiin Garidmagnai" and "Donorovyn Lkhumbengarav"...however you pronounce them, that's a lot of fun.

197 Chinese Taipei
Why they lost: Taipei, Taiwan, whatever you want to call it, they were close...SO CLOSE to sneaking into the next round. A 2-1 lost in Malaysia wasn't great, but a stirring comeback on home soil gave them a great win 3-2 to end the series. The down side? Because Malyasia scored 2 in Taiwan, Malaysia went on and Taiwan stayed home.
Who/What we'll miss: No Chinese Taipei, no chance to show up China...sad days, sad days...

So there went the first 11, before the month is out we're going to lose 15 more Asian teams and 5 Caribbean islands; we'll bid them farewell soon enough, but for now goodnight Asian nations, and goodluck.

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