Monday, August 15, 2011

Happy Trails #191-177 (AFC Rd. 2)

Before we look ahead to the next set of matches kicking off in early September, let's pour one out for the teams who have fallen out of the competition.

191 Sok Dee Der Laos
Why they lost: Perhaps I put a bit of a jinx on Thim Xad by giving them the recognition of being the first "Well I'll Be Damned" Award. Perhaps the Laotian sport press was right that the team was weak in defense. Perhaps the Chinese national team was a little tougher than the Cambodian one. What ever the case, conceding 13 goals in two matches rarely works out well, and definitely led to the Laos loss.
Who/What we'll miss: A great Cinderella/scrappy underdog story would have been awesome--hence the whole post that I wrote about them...not to mention crushing Chinese hopes. Ah well...better luck next time.

190 Namaste Nepal
Why they lost: The Gorkha Warriors were another team that couldn't quite keep pace with a bigger, stronger Asian power, falling to Jordan 10:1 on aggregate. But they did pull together an excellent second leg, getting a 1:1 draw that was a small comfort after a 9:0 drubbing in Aman.
Who/What we'll miss: The big name in Nepal is Rohit Chand, a 19 year old center back who has been pumped up as a player good enough to make it in the upper echelons of Europe. Wikipedia claims that he's getting a shot with Kettering Town FC in England's 5th tier, which might make him easier to scout than if he was in...say...Kathmandu.

189 Joigin Hong Kong
Why they lost: While Laos gave up goals, they did score a few. The same can't be said for Hong Kong who were blanked by a Saudi Arabian team that has been in the midst of a tumultuous year.
Who/What we'll miss: Hopefully nothing. We'll hope that this is Hong Kong's nadir, 25 years after almost qualifying for Mexico '86. Though they've made less progress in each subsequent Cup campaign, this should be the end of that unfortunate trend.

188 Jakshy Kalyngydzar Kyrgyzstan
Why they lost: I might place the explanation for this one on facing an up-and-coming opponent in an Uzbekistani side that made the out rounds at the Asian Cup, and seemed dangerous at the U-20 Tournament in Colombia. Facing that, it's gotta be tough for Kyrgyzstan to keep up. So their 7 goal wipe-out makes a little more sense.
Who/What we'll miss: Confusing attempts to settle on one nickname for a side that is occasionally called the "snow leopards", The Eagles, and the Blue Eagle (even though their kits are red).

187 Dhanee Maldives
Why they lost: Take your pick. No goals, giving up 5, having to make do with a team of locally based players while facing an Iranian side that's one of the most well-established in Asia, having a population approximately .5% of Iran's. Any one of those would probably explain the Red Snapper's failure to advance.
Who/What we'll miss: Ali Ashfaq, a man called "The Best Striker in South Asia" isn't well known outside his own country--but when you captain the national side and celebrate like should be.

186 To Bozdid Tajikistan
Why they lost: Though a 2:1 loss in Syria was a tough beat, the series still could have gone the Tajiks way. But a stunning 4:0 loss at home knocked them out. If you can't defend your home pitch, you can't go far in qualifying.
Who/What we'll miss: Coach Pulod Kodirov, the winningest coach in history for "The Persian Lions" of the national team won't get any more matches to prove his bowing out after 3 years in charge of the team. (Of course, if you ask Tajik fans, that might be a good thing)

185 Paalam The Philippines
Why they lost: A 3-0 loss in Kuwait gave them a major task for the home-leg, and they simply couldn't make it up falling 2-1 at home to finish 4 goals out.
Who/What we'll miss: Hard to pick. There's Midfielder Simon Greatwitch who could help Hartwick college known for something more than...okay he could help Hartwick College be known. Then there's Neil Ethridge, Fulham's Reserve Goalkeeper and ex-Chealsea trainee. And of course...there's the fact that their nickname is "The Street Dogs" which is a kind of badass in an adorably scruffy way.

184 Thwa Dau Me Myanmar
Why they lost: You mean besides the fact that their military junta creates a national atmosphere of blind fear and anxiety which makes playing a children's game one of the few escapes...unless you play for the national team and must face the spectre of bringing shame on the nation and being sent for "re-education"? Well, their fans throwing garbage on the field at half-time during the home-leg probably didn't help matters--especially since refs cancelled the second half and Myanmar's last chance at a comeback.
Who/What we'll miss: The feeling that maybe, just maybe watching 22 men kick a ball for 90 minutes might distract the citizens of Myanmar from that aforementioned military junta.

183 Phir Milenge India
Why they lost: It's either because of FIFA's ancient curse against the country that declined to play in the 1950 World Cup (What do you mean we can't play barefoot?) or the fact that, as children, Sachin Tendulkar & MS Dhoni picked up cricket bats instead of cleats.
Who/What we'll miss: An inevitable Bollywood soccer movie with a star studded song and dance number...wait...there already are some like that...well, I know what's going into my Netflix queue.

182 Selamat Tinggal Malaysia
Why they lost: After a thrilling 5-3 loss in Singapore in the first leg, Malaysia had some work to do, but 3 away goals to help their cause. If they won by two they would be in pretty good position for advancement. While they led 1-0 after 60 minutes and were one goal (and solid defnese) away from moving on a Singapore equalizer in the 73rd minute knocked them out
Who/What we'll miss: The Malay Tigers might have my new favorite football kit. As if the black and yellow stripes weren't unusual enough--they also have an ad campaign that makes it painfully clear that you're either a Malaysian fan or you are unwilling to rip your own skin off.

181 Tam Biet Vietnam
Why they lost: Despite a thrilling 2-1 win at home in the second leg, Vietnam simply couldn't overcome a 3-0 loss in Qatar in the first leg. Meaning that, once again, the Qataris crush the dreams of other people (FIST SHAKE!)
Who/What we'll miss: A pretty solid underdog story is one thing. A pretty solid underdog story that could have knocked out the internationally mocked Qatari side...that's a great thing.

180 Bhalo Thakben Bangladesh
Why they lost: Like Vietnam, Bangladesh got a great win at home 2-0 over Lebanon. Like Vietnam, Bangladesh couldn't overcome a big loss (4-0) in the first leg.
Who/What we'll miss: The chance for a doggie fight between Bangladesh and the Phillipines (don't bet against the street dogs)
179 Ila Al-Liqa Yemen
Why they lost: Continuing the trend of the last two teams, Yemen played better in the second leg, with a goalless draw; but they lost 2-0 in Iraq and head home despite their fine performance.
Who/What we'll miss: Yemen has won fewer games by smaller margins in each consecutive World Cup qualifying campaign. So, hopefully we'll only miss them until they reorganize their team and reverse that trend.

178 Ila Al-Liqa Palestine
Why they lost: I know Grant Wahl meant well, but clearly this is another case of the Sports Illustrated Jinx. After a nailbiting 1-0 loss in Thailand, Palestine nearly pulled a stunner in the second-leg back home but had to settle for a 2-2 draw against a higher ranked team. That was great--but if SI hadn't been there?
Who/What we'll miss: A team full of college kids, biologists, and dreamers who play international football in their spare time after work? We'll be missing a stirring underdog movie just waiting to happen. (And this "Happy Trails" winner of coolest Federation logo)

177 Sag Bolun Turkmenistan
Why they lost: With everything to play for after a 1-1 draw at home, the Green Men Turkmen waited too long, ceding 4 goals to Singapore in the first 75 minutes. An own goal and two late, intentionally Turkmen, goals made it close, but not close enough.
Who/What we'll miss: The sophomoric humor potential of the most popular club sides in Turkmenistan FC/HTTU Asgabat...Heehee..Asgabat.

PHEW! That's a lot of teams to bid farewell. In our next posts will look ahead to the next rounds of competition in North America and Asia, the start of South American qualifying, some unlikely teams to root for and predictions from a host of Hooligans.

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