Bhutan
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We've already got the first upset of 2018 World Cup qualifying | The Backcut

First kick may not be for three more years, but the 2018 World Cup has already kicked off its qualification process. 

Despite having just begun, Asian Football Confederation (AFC) qualification has already yielded one of the most impressive upsets in recent years. 

Tiny Bhutan (a nation of just around 750,000 people), which as recently as last month was ranked dead last (209th) in the FIFA rankings, defeated Sri Lanka home and away by an aggregate score of 3-1. 

Chencho Gyeltshen, nicknamed "The Ronaldo of Bhutan," scored the first goal for Bhutan in just the fifth minute of the match, which gave the Bhutanese a 2-0 aggregate lead. But Sri Lanka roared back after the half-hour mark, when Zohar Zarwan scored to keep his nation's slim hopes alive. 

But Gyeltshen struck again though in the 90th minute to seal the match for the Druk Eleven in front of a packed crowd at Changlimithang Stadium in Thimpu, the nation's capital. 

 

As they left the stadium, the fans cheered: "Now we're not the worst team!" 

If all of this seems extraordinarily sudden to you, that's because it is.

And remember, Germany hoisted the FIFA World Cup Trophy at the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro just over eight months ago. 

Bhutan's victory ensures that it will advance to the next round of AFC qualification, in which the 40 remaining national teams will split into eight groups of five teams each, with each group playing a home-and-away round-robin format. Whether Bhutan can hang with the likes of Asian powerhouses Japan, South Korea, and Australia is anybody's guess.

For now, though, let's just all enjoy the beauty of international soccer and marvel at how incredible it is that FIFA's last-ranked nation can live to see another day of qualification. 

Perhaps we'll see some more monks in the crowd as AFC qualification progresses and hear a few more rousing renditions of The Thunder Dragon Kingdom

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