New York Times: The story of the worst team in the world

1 Sri Lanka Sugathadesa Stadium6 More striker's birthdayBhutan's players celebrate their first ever World Cup victory
All photos © James Montague

In March I went to cover the start of qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The first round of matches took place in Asia just 242 days after the 2014 final in Brazil. The stand out tie, for me, was Sri Lanka versus Bhutan.

When I was writing Thirty One Nil I followed many of the lowest ranked teams in the world. During this qualification cycle Bhutan were ranked 209 out of 209. It was also their first ever World Cup qualification campaign.

But I was also interested in the country of Bhutan; an isolated kingdom in the Himalayas that famously banned television until the late 1990s. What kind of football did they play if they didn’t have any outside influences?

So I travelled to Sri Lanka to meet both teams on the edge of the international game and accidentally witnessed one of the great World Cup qualification shocks as Bhutan won 1-0. It was an incredible moment.

Here’s a link to my New York Times piece on it.

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