Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A New Award

Rather than simply saying farewell to teams that have lost we here at the Montanan Hooligans World Cup Center would also like to tip our caps to the best stories and unlikeliest squads to survive a round of qualifying competition. Since the AFC has finished their first round of qualifying it's time to debut this feature with an acknowledgement of the plucky little guppy that could and did win our inaugural "Well, I'll Be Damned" Award": Laos aka Thim Xad (The National Team)

That Laos has made it in to the Second round of Asian Qualifying is remarkable in and of itself. It ranks 174th in the World (lowest of any team advancing from the AFC first round and one spot lower than Vanuatu). It has never ranked higher than 134th (back in 1998). The nation very best players might slip onto a Thai club side, but that's as far as the dream extends for now.

Playing Cambodia took something extra, the two are ranked dead even by Fifa and played that way, with each team winning at home. The first match showed what the Lao Press identified as the team's biggest weakness: Defense. The never seemed to create offensively leaving it to 18 year old midfielder Manolam Phomsouvanh to deliver to cracking goals from set pieces. The rest of the time Cambodia seemed to run all over the Thim Xad defense, despite the fact that they were kept scoreless in the first half.

The second leg showed greater poise for Laos playing in front of their home fans. Team star Lamnao Singto scored twice en route to a 4-2 victory. Singto appears to be the biggest thing in Laotian football (and at 23 one of it's biggest veterans), moving at his will between the Thai Premier League and the local Laotian league, landing an endorsement contract, heck, he even gets the principles of swagger and braggadocio (if this shushing goal celebration is any indication).

But when it came to the end of the match and the referees required 30 minutes of extra time to break the final two goals that sent Laos on came from Visay Phaphovanin and Sysomvang Kanlaya (again from a set piece). Now Thim Xad prepares for Asia's 5th highest ranked team in China, and while the odds are long (and in many cases the names are longer), we here at The Montanan Hooligans World Cup Center will be rooting for Laos, if only so we can say "Well, I'll be Damned" again.

Congrats Laos you won our first WIBD; now try and win another!

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