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Bhutan victorious in 'other final'

THIMPU, Bhutan -- Bhutan routed Montserrat 4-0 in "the other final," played between the two lowest ranked soccer countries in the world on Sunday, just hours before the World Cup final in Japan between Brazil and Germany.

Captain Wangyel Dorji struck a hat-trick to clinch it for the Himalayan country at the Changlimithang stadium, located at an altitude of 2250 metres (7500 ft) in the Bhutan capital.

Dorji, who recovered from an eye infection to lead his side, scored in the third minute to put Bhutan 1-0 ahead at halftime.

He added the second in the 67th minute and completed Bhutan's domination over their Caribbean rivals in the 77th, two minutes after striker Dinesh Chhetri had made it 3-0.

Bhutan, the youngest members of world soccer's governing body FIFA, are ranked 202nd and only ahead of the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat.

The game, recognised by FIFA as an official international, was played in a festive atmosphere before a cheering audience of around 15,000 fans as a romantic prelude to the World Cup final.

The idea of "the other final" came from a Dutch documentary company KesselsKramer, who used the worldwide attention on the soccer World Cup to illustrate two cultures separated half way across the globe.

Festive atmosphere

The contest between the islanders and the hill people began in a festive mood after an hour-long dance programme showcasing the Buddhist traditions of the eastern Himalayan country.

Montserrat, struggling to get used to the rarefied atmosphere and with eight of their players down with altitude sickness and viral infection, hardly threatened an upset.

Wangyel Dorji sent a feeble header past the shaky goalkeeper Cecil Lake for Bhutan's early lead off a Kinley Dorji corner.

The Bhutan captain, who has played professional soccer in India, then bent a freekick from the edge of the box to make it 2-0 before completing his hat-trick with a gentle tap-in off a Kinley Dorji pass.

Chhetri had earlier scored from close range after good work from the busy Kinley Dorji.

Monsterrat coach William Lewis attributed his team's lacklustre performance to the altitude.

"The altitude played a very big role," he said. "We landed last Monday and I think it would have been better if we had come two weeks ago to get better acclimatised."

Montserrat, whose meagre population of 5,000 may pale in comparison with the number of registered players in Brazil and Germany, found their only meaningful attempt squandered by Vladimir Farrell, who shot straight at the goalkeeper.

More exposure

Fair play was the byword as thousands of schoolchildren were dressed in the home side's yellow and orange and Montserrat's green attire to cheer both sides.

Hat-trick scorer Wangyel Dorji was thrilled.

"Initially, my target was to score at least two, but I managed three goals," he said after the game.

He said Bhutan, who won affiliation to FIFA only two years ago, could do much better with more exposure.

"For the last three-four weeks we have been training very hard," said Bhutan coach Aric Schanz of Holland, who had been appointed earlier this month specifically for this game.

"I hoped the boys would translate that into goals, and they did."

Khare Basnet, general secretary of the Bangladesh Football Federation said a similar game should be organised every four years, but hopefully without Bhutan.

"We are not playing for rankings," he said. "But now that we have organised this match and done well, we could appeal to FIFA for an improvement in the ranking."

Despite Bhutan's win, the trophy was shared by both teams, who prepared to sit together to watch on television the real thing in Yokohama, thousands of miles away.






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