Battle of Lowest-Ranked Soccer Teams

While the two best soccer teams in the world battle for bragging rights Sunday, two other teams will meet to claim a somewhat less prestigious title — the worst national soccer team on earth.

Billed as "The Other Final", Bhutan, ranked number 202 in the world, was to clash with Montserrat, considered the underdog at 203.

The match, expected to end just hours before the Brazil-Germany World Cup final, was to be played in Bhutan's capital, Thimphu, in front of about 10,000 people — more than twice the current population of Montserrat, The Associated Press reported.

‘Not About Who Wins or Loses’

Matthijs De Jongh, the event's organizer, told The Associated Press: "This match is not about who wins or loses."

To borrow a well worn but extremely useful sports cliché, it was truly about how they played the game.

As an example, when Bhutan, the higher ranked of the two squads, was first getting its' feet wet in the international soccer arena back in 1999, they took on the Kuwaiti national team. Kuwait managed to win; the final score — 20-0.

De Jongh told The Associated Press that the Bhutan-Montserrat match was "about the celebration of two countries, which despite obstacles, share a love for the game."

Out of Isolation

Among the obstacles in Bhutan, has been a lack of modern services, technology, and even electricity. Just 40 years ago, the country had no roads, no money, no post office, no hospitals, no schools, and no tourists. But soccer fans there have finally been able to watch the World Cup on television — something that wasn't available in the country until 1999.

Bhutan, the last remaining Himalayan Buddhist kingdom, has been playing soccer for nearly 70 years, but the country suffers from a lack of facilities, in large part because fields there need to be carved out of mountain slopes.

The game was to be played high up in the Himalayas at Changlimithang Stadium — about 8,500 feet above sea level — a considerable challenge for the Montserrat squad, not used to playing soccer on a field with depleted oxygen.

Volcano Disaster

The Montserrat team had other obstacles to overcome. The tiny Caribbean Island is best known for its' seven active volcanoes, one of which erupted in 1995. The eruption rendered half of what had been an idyllic island resort of 11,000 residents — frequented by rock stars and jet-setters — uninhabitable.

Only 4,000 to 5,000 inhabitants remain, and the only international-class soccer field was abandoned after being covered with volcanic ash.

Because it was so difficult to find a safe playing field on the island, Montserrat's team was only able to practice on a full-size field for one week before traveling to Bhutan. In addition, because the population dropped so dramatically, there wasn't an abundance of skilled players to choose from.

The squad that took on Bhutan included an artist as well as a member of the Parliament.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. It was produced for by Mark King.