We're two short weeks away from the kickoff of World Cup 2018 Qualifying, and as such, it's time to reignite one of my favorite features to write during World Cup Qualification "Well I'll Be Damned" (WIBD) for short.
WIBD is a quick way to give some press to the least known and most easily forgotten teams in qualification, the squads for whom winning a match would be a high point in their national history, for whom qualifying for the finals is the stuff of intense day dreams, and for whom actually winning the cup would signify certifiable delusions.
Since the Road to Russia/Miles to Moscow/Long Haul to Luzhnki starts in Asia, that's where our WIBD profiles will start too, with the lowest ranked team in the whole cup: Bhutan
The Druk 11, as they're known in Bhutan, have a pretty paltry history in international soccer events. The 2018 tournament will mark their first foray into the World Cup. They haven't played a game at all in the last 18 months (a 5-2 loss to Sri Lanka in September 2013). And now they're set to face those same Lankan Lions in their first ever qualifying matches.
Given the absurd altitude in the land of the Thunder Dragon, the national squad might be able to develop some tremendous endurance. But given the lack of financial opportunities for football players in Bhutan (the game is often given up by kids once they discover more exciting/profitable things...like math), players tend to have a hard time developing the skill sets to keep up with their other AFC counterparts.
Ranked 209th in the world and with an historical goal differential of -185, the odds are most definitely stacked against Bhutan. They've never drawn so much as a point against Sri Lanka, and in 15 matches against them they have scored exactly twice.
Still I'm optimistic. Maybe it's the fact that anything can happen. Maybe it's the fact that Changlimithang Stadium is at 7,600 feet above sea level 1500 feet below the insurmountable Quito in Ecuador. Maybe it's the fact that I taught the former son of the Bhutanese FA and am still hoping I can get a national team jersey. But come on, let's face facts. Bhutan is a rising power, ten years after beatin gMonserrat they could easily beat the world.