Bhutan national football team
|Association||Bhutan Football Federation|
|Sub-confederation||SAFF (South Asia)|
|Head coach||Norio Tsukitate|
|Most caps||Passang Tshering (21)|
|Top scorer||Chencho Gyeltshen
Wangay Dorji (5)
|Home stadium||Changlimithang Stadium|
|FIFA ranking||166 7 (9 July 2015)|
|Highest FIFA ranking||159 (June 2015)|
|Lowest FIFA ranking||209 (November 2014-February 2015)|
|Highest Elo ranking||190 (April 1, 1982)|
|Lowest Elo ranking||231 (September 6, 2013)|
| Nepal 3–1 Bhutan
(Kathmandu, Nepal; 1 April 1982)
| Bhutan 6–0 Guam
(Thimphu, Bhutan; April 23, 2003)
| Kuwait 20–0 Bhutan
(Kuwait City, Kuwait; February 14, 2000)
The Bhutan national football team represents Bhutan in international men's football. The team is controlled by the governing body for football in Bhutan, the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF), which is a member of the Asian Football Federation and the regional body the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF). Bhutan play their home games at the national stadium, Changlimithang. It is one of the younger national teams in the world having played its first match in 1982.
Their second highest ranking achieved was 187th, which they last reached in December 2008 following their semi-final performance in the 2008 SAFF Championship. From that high point, they slipped down the rankings to last place in December 2012 to join San Marino and the Turks and Caicos Islands in 207th. They fell to 208th place following the admission to FIFA of South Sudan in July 2014, and dropped to 209th as the only team without ranking points following San Marino's draw with Estonia. However, Bhutan rose to 163rd on the FIFA rankings after two victories over Sri Lanka in World Cup qualifying, achieving their highest ranking ever in April 2015. However, this changed since they rose to 159th on June 2015.
The team are ranked extremely low on the all time Elo ratings at 231st out of 234. The only FIFA affiliated nation below them are American Samoa, with the other two spots taken by the Northern Marianas Islands and Palau. Passang Tshering and Wangay Dorji are the team's top scorers, both with five goals.
On 12 March 2015 Bhutan won their first World Cup Qualifying tie, beating Sri Lanka 1–0 in Colombo. The winning goal was scored by Tshering Dorji in the 84th minute. One week later, they earned another victory against Sri Lanka 2–1 in Thimphu, securing the qualification to the second round with an aggregate score of 3–1.
Bhutan's entry into the international arena was comparatively late, playing their first match only in 1982, a 3-1 loss to Nepal in the 1982 ANFA Cup, although sources also indicate that a team representing Bhutan travelled to Nepal eight years earlier and won the Shripanch Mahendra Gold Cup, though it is not clear the extent to which this was a true international tournament or whether they were competing against club teams. They also played a representative team from China's Kunming Army Unit in the competition, also losing 3-1. Unfortunately, the scorers for Bhutan are not recorded, so it is unknown who scored Bhutan's first international goal. It is interesting to note that Bhutan's involvement in the ANFA Cup came some seven years before the inauguration of their own league competition.
Despite this, Bhutan continued to put out a side in the South Asian Games. They entered the first games in 1984, but lost all three of their games, 2-0 to Bangladesh, 5-0 to hosts, and eventual winners, Nepal and 1-0 to the Maldives to finish last out of the four competing teams. It is unclear whether a play off for third place was held between Bhutan and the Maldives. If it was, then the result is not known. Either way, the bronze medal was awarded to the Maldives.
Undeterred, Bhutan sent a team to the following year's competition in Bangladesh. Results unfortunately went the same way as the prior year's tournament. Bhutan were drawn in group B of the competition along with India and Nepal. They lost their first match narrowly, 1-0 to Nepal and were beaten 3-0 by eventual champions India to ensure that they finished bottom of the group and did not progress.
The national team did not play any fixtures for the next two years as the South Asian Games moved to become a biennial competition, though they again sent a team to the third edition of the games in Kolkata, India. Drawn in group B again, this time with Nepal and Bangladesh, history repeated itself, as Bhutan lost first to Bangladesh 3-0, with Badal Das, Kaiser Hamid and Ahmed Ali scoring for Bangladesh, and then 6-2 to Nepal. Whilst their two goals ended a five-year, six-game scoring drought, they were thoroughly outclassed as Ganesh Thapa scored five times for Nepal.
Despite establishing the first recorded football league in Bhutan in 1986, and while the BFF were admitted as members of the AFC in 1994, the national team did not compete in any matches following their defeat to Nepal in the South Asian Games until 1999, missing four editions of the South Asian Games, returning only in 1999.
Their absence from the international arena had not seen an improvement in the standard of football, even though there had been a national championship established in the country for the previous four seasons. Their first game against hosts Nepal ended in a resounding 7-0 thrashing. The team found themselves 3-0 down within the first twenty minutes as Hari Khadka scored in the first and fifth minutes, with Naresh Joshi extending the lead after eighteen. Bhutan were able to keep Nepal at bay for the rest of the half, but conceded two more either side of the hour mark courtesy of Deepak Amatya and Rajan Rayamajhi before a brace from Basanta Thapa sealed an emphatic victory for Nepal. They performed better defensively in their next match, but still lost 3-0 to India, Vijayam Imivalappil scoring all three goals for India. Out of the competition, Bhutan faced a dead-rubber against Pakistan, who were also eliminate prior to the fixture following losses to India and Nepal. With nothing to play for, they produced their best performance of the tournament. Dinesh Chhetri opened the scoring for Bhutan in the twenty-first minute, the first time they had led a game in their history, only to see a potential victory disappear following two second-half goals for Pakistan from Haroon Yousaf.
At the turn of the century, having spent the best part of the last two decades competing only against teams within south Asia, Bhutan made their first foray into international football at a continental level, competing in the qualification rounds for the 2000 AFC Asian Cup. This tournament was to be one of the lowest points in the history of the admittedly hastily assembled national team. An opening 3-0 loss to Nepal was perhaps not surprising, with Bhutan never having gained any form of positive result against their himalayan neighbours, and at this point in time having scored only once in the ANFA Cup back in 1982. However, the four days later they faced Kuwait and were beaten 20-0. Seven of the ten Kuwaiti outfield players got their names on the scoresheet that day, including Bashar Abdullah who scored eight and Jassem Al-Houwaidi who scored five. Bhutan were seriously hampered in this game by their years in the footballing wilderness, but did not help themselves in the match conceding four penalties in total for what were described as "rugby-like challenges" and having two players sent off. This defeat was a world record international defeat, though fortunately Bhutan's blushes were spared fourteen months later when they lost this most undesirable of records as Australia beat Tonga 22-0. Further heavy defeats were to follow, an 8-0 loss to Turkmenistan was followed by an 11-2 defeat to Yemen. Following on from this defeat, having been established in 1983, the Bhutan Football Federation were admitted as the 204th member of FIFA.
2002: The Other Final
The defeats in 2000 in AFC Cup qualifying had left Bhutan ranked as the world's second worst national team with thirteen points in the official FIFA rankings, below American Samoa, but above Montserrat. At the same time, with the Netherlands having failed to qualify for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, two Dutch ad-agency partners, Johan Kramer and Matthijs de Jongh, not having their home team to cheer on pondered who the worst team in the world might be. With Bhutan and Montserrat so close to each other at the bottom of the FIFA rankings, they set out to arrange a match between the two nations. Montserrat, their only pitch having been destroyed by one of the island nation's seven active volcanoes, agreed to the match and travelled to Bhutan for the game, held at Changlimithang a few hours before the actual World Cup Final, a match authorised by FIFA. The game started strongly for Montserrat and Bhutan struggled to keep them at bay during early exchanges. However, initial nerves were settled after five minutes when Wangay Dorji headed a goal to give Bhutan the lead. This gave them the momentum to press on, but their finishing was lax and they were unable to convert the chances they created. Montserrat were able to keep Bhutan at bay for the rest of the half and the game remained at 1-0 until well past the hour mark when referee Steve Bennett awarded Bhutan a freekick. Dorji stepped up and scored his second of the game. The momentum remained with Bhutan and veteran striker Dinesh Chhetri scored a third before Dorji took full advantage of a tiring Montserratian team to complete his hat trick and seal a 4-0 victory, Bhutan's first victory on the international stage against any opposition, indeed, their first ever result of any kind, and the first time they had ever kept a clean sheet.
However, despite this memorable victory, Bhutan were unable to carry this form forward into competitive matches. Despite the cash the Bhutan Football Federation now received as a member of FIFA, there was still very little money in the game for players, even those who played for the national team. Players who were unemployed outside of football had to exist on a stipend from the federation of only Nu 3-5,500 per month and there were no internationally certified coaches in the country at all, only amateurs and school teachers. It is no surprise then that Bhutan lost all three games in 2003 South Asian Football Federation Gold Cup, losing 6-0 to the Maldives, 2-0 to Nepal and 3-0 to hosts Bangladesh, returning home bottom of their group without scoring a single goal. They took advantage though in their next set of matches as they hosted Group F of the preliminary qualifying round for the 2004 AFC Asian Cup. Drawn with Guam and Mongolia, two teams ranked much closer to them than the majority of their previous opposition, they began their campaign with an impressive 6-0 victory over Guam and followed it up with a 0-0 draw against Mongolia to top their group and progress to the qulifying round proper. The victory over Guam was their highest ever victory and the two games undefeated in this group represents Bhutan's best run of form to date as of 2014. In the next stage though they were drawn against much stronger opposition in the shape of Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Yemen Faced with this increase in quality, Bhutan were outclassed in all six of their qualifying games, losing all of them and failing to score a single goal again in the process.
Their losing run continued into the 2005 South Asian Football Federation Gold Cup, where again they were to return home winless, losing 3-0 to Bangladesh and India respectively and 3-1 to Nepal, with Bikash Pradhan scoring their only goal of the tournament, a consolation goal with Nepal already 3-0 up in what was a dead rubber for both sides.
The next three years would prove to be somewhat of an improvement for Bhutan. Entering the inaugural AFC Challenge Cup, they suffered narrow defeats to Nepal, 2-0 and Sri Lanka 1-0, before holding Brunei to a 0-0 draw. Although they failed to score and did not progress to the main competition, the draw against Brunei was their first positive result of any kind for nearly three years following a similar 0-0 draw with Mongolia and ended an eleven match losing streak. They did not play any international matches for the next two years, appearing again on the continental stage in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup. Their performance was similar to the previous Challenge Cup, opening with a 3-1 loss to Tajikistan, Passang Tshering getting Bhutan back in the game after sixty nine minutes, only for the Tajiks to seal the victory from the penalty spot in the dying minutes through Numonjon Hakimov. Bhutan bounced back in the next game, drawing 1-1 with Brunei, Nawang Dendhup giving Bhutan the advantage, a lead which they held until the seventy sixth minute when Khayrun Bin Salleh equalised. A 3-0 loss to the Philippines in their final group game confirmed that, again, Bhutan would not be progressing to the competition proper However, the two goals they scored and the draw achieved, meant that they finished in third place in the group above Brunei.
Bhutan built on the positive results they had gained from the previous two tournaments when they took part in the 2008 SAFF Championship. A late Nima Sangay goal was sufficient to give Bhutan a share of the points in their opening game against Bangladesh. They slipped up against the hosts Sri Lanka in their next game, losing 2-0, but bounced back in their final game to record a 3-1 victory over Afghanistan, Yeshey Gyeltshen scoring twice and his namesake Yeshey Dorji getting the third before H.A. Habib scored a consolation for the Afghans. Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh in the other final group game to ensure that Bhutan finished as runners-up in the group and qualified for the knock-out rounds of a tournament for the first time in their history. They met India in the semi-finals and took the lead through Kinley Dorji after eighteen minutes. It was a lead they would hold for less than fifteen minutes though as Sunil Chhetri equalised before halftime. Bhutan hung on and took the game to extra time only to see the possibility of victory snatched from them at the very last moment as Gouramangi Singh scored in added time at the end of extra time to claim the narrowest of victories for India. Nonetheless, the semi-final appearance is Bhutan's best performance in any tournament to date.
Unfortunately, they have not been able to build on what they achieved in 2008. Their loss to India has been the start of the longest losing streak in their history, currently standing as of July 2014 at nineteen games. The 2010 AFC Challenge Cup qualifying competition began with a narrow 1-0 loss to the Philippines, but quickly turned into a rout as Bhutan lost 7-0 to Turkmenistan and 5-0 to the Maldives to return home again without a point or scoring.
A Passang Tshering goal was of little consolation as a 2-1 friendly loss to Nepal failed to end the streak, before a disastrous 2009 SAFF Championship saw them lose 4-1 to Bangladesh, 6-0 to Sri Lanka and 7-0 to Pakistan, a Nawang Dendhup penalty against Bangladesh being their only reward in all three games.
2011 to present day
Bhutan withdrew from the international stage for the next two years, re-emerging to play two back to back friendly matches against Nepal in preparation for the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup. Both of these games resulted in narrow losses, 1-0 and 2-1. Their 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualification was essentially over before it started. Rather than being drawn in a group for initial qualification, the process was changed so that the lowest-ranked eight teams entering played off over two legs on a home-and-away basis. Bhutan perhaps suffered from the fact that neither leg was played in Bhutan, with both matches taking place at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium, Gurgaon, India, but nonetheless, a hat-trick from Siqiq Walizada in the first leg to give Afghanistan a 3-0 lead, made the second leg, which Afghanistan won 2-0, essentially irrelevant. A disappointing year was compounded with three successive losses in the 2011 SAFF Championship, Bhutan losing 3-0 to Sri Lanka, 5-0 to India and finally 8-1 to Afghanistan, Chencho Gyeltshen's consolation being the only positive from the year's competition.
Bhutan played only one match in 2012, a 5-0 loss to Thailand, before their most recent attempt in the 2013 SAFF Championship. This tournament, produced an almost identical result to the last SAFF championship, Bhutan opened the competition losing 3-0 to Afghanistan, then 8-2 to the Maldives despite being 2-1 up at one point and level going into halftime, before rounding off another miserable year with a 5-2 loss to Sri Lanka. One of the main reasons suggested for Bhutan's significant drop in form is the amount of money available to players, even those who play for the national team. Yeshey Dorji, one of the country's leading players, announced his retirement following the 2013 SAFF Championships, citing an inability to live off football as the main reason. The Bhutan Football Federaition recently withdrew the Nu 4,000 monthly payment to players in the national team, and whilst money is spent at grass roots, more needs to be spent on the national team as coach Kazunori Ohara notes that once players get to the end of school age they often drop out of football completely.
Bhutan made their first attempt to qualify for the FIFA World Cup entering the qualifiers for the 2018 edition and winning their first ever qualifying match against Sri Lanka in the Preliminary Round. In preparation for their qualifying campaign, and in an attempt to improve the overall standard of football in the country and attract more players, the Bhutan Football Federation offered a monthly salary of Ng 10,000 to all players in the main national squad who are not currently on federation scholarships.
After eliminating Sri Lanka from the 2018 FIFA World Cup, they advanced to Round 2 in the AFC qualifying section. Bhutan was placed in Group C, along with China, Qatar, Hong Kong, and Maldives. In their first game, they lost against Hong Kong in the Mong Kok Stadium by a score of 7-0. As of now, they are in last place in this group.
Note: Clubs, caps and dates of birth taken from player pages at National Football Teams. See individual player articles for references.
Recent results and upcoming fixtures
|2018 WC Q. Round 1 12 March 2015||Sri Lanka||0 – 1||Bhutan||Colombo, Sri Lanka|
|15:30 UTC+6||Report||86' Tshering Dorji||Stadium: Sugathadasa Stadium
Referee: Fu Ming (China)
|2018 WC Q. Round 1 17 March 2015||Bhutan||2 – 1||Sri Lanka||Thimphu, Bhutan|
|16:00 UTC+6||Gyeltshen 5', 90'||Report||Zarwan 35'||Stadium: Changlimithang Stadium , Thimpu
Referee: Marai Al Awaji (Saudi Arabia)
|World Cup Qualifier Second Round 11 June 2015||Hong Kong||7 – 0||Bhutan||Mong Kok, Hong Kong|
|McKee 19' 57'
Lo Kwan Yee 30'
Ju Yingzhi 42'
Lam Ka Wai 49' (Pen.)
|Stadium: Mong Kok Stadium
Referee: Charymurat Kurbanov (Turkmenistan)
|World Cup Qualifier 16 June 2015||Bhutan||0 – 6||China PR||Thimpu, Bhutan|
|Report||Yang Xu 45+2', 60', 76'
Wu Lei 55'
Yu Dabao 67', 83'
|Stadium: Changlimithang Stadium
Referee: Arumughan Rowan (India)
|World Cup Qualifier 8 October 2015||Bhutan||v||Maldives||Thimpu, Bhutan|
|Stadium: Changlimithang Stadium
|World Cup Qualifier 13 October 2015||Bhutan||v||Hong Kong||Thimpu, Bhutan|
|Stadium: Changlimithang Stadium
|World Cup Qualifier 17 November 2015||Bhutan||v||Qatar||Thimpu, Bhutan|
|Stadium: Changlimithang Stadium
|World Cup Qualifier 29 March 2016||Maldives||v||Bhutan||Malé, Maldives|
|Stadium: National Football Stadium, Malé
AFC Asian Cup Record
|AFC Asian Cup|
|Hosts / Year||Result||GP||W||D*||L||GS||GA|
|1956 to 1996||Did not enter||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|2000||Did not qualify||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|2004||Did not qualify||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|2007 to 2015||Did not enter||-||-||-||-||-||-|
South Asian Football Federation Cup Record
|South Asian Football Federation Cup|
|Hosts / Year||Result||GP||W||D*||L||GS||GA|
|1993 to 1999||Did not enter||-||-||-||-||-||-|
FIFA World Cup Record
|FIFA World Cup|
|Hosts / Year||Result||GP||W||D*||L||GS||GA|
|2006||Did not enter|
|2014||Did not enter|
|2018||To be determined|
|2022||To be determined|
AFC Challenge Cup Record
|AFC Challenge Cup|
|Hosts / Year||Result||GP||W||D*||L||GS||GA|
|2008||Did not qualify||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|2010||Did not qualify||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|2012||Did not qualify||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|2014||Did not enter||-||-||-||-||-||-|
- *Denotes draws includes knockout matches decided on penalty kicks. Red border indicates that the tournament was hosted on home soil. Gold, silver, bronze backgrounds indicates 1st, 2nd and 3rd finishes respectively. Bold text indicates best finish in tournament.
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