Tsedenbal: impressed with Mongolia's progress


Mongolia progressed to the World Cup group stage phase of qualifying for the first time in their history and one of the heroes of their campaign so far, Norjmoo Tsedenbal, has declared how happy he is with the direction that Mongolian football is headed in. 

Scraping past Brunei has become a critical junction for Mongolian football

In Tsedenbal's own words, one of the biggest key moments for Mongolian football was scraping past Brunei in the first qualifying round of qualifying. This round is basically a pre-qualifier to eliminate the weakest countries in the Asian qualifying section, as only the lowest-ranked teams have to compete in this round. 

Mongolia scraped through the tie against Brunei with only the smallest of margins. After winning 2-0 at home, they travelled to Brunei expecting to have already done enough to breeze through. This illusion was smashed early in the first half as Brunei raced into a 2-0 lead, wiping out Mongolia's advantage from the first leg. 

Mongolia's nerve was creaking at this point, and all the momentum was with Brunei as they stormed and buzzed around Mongolia's goal looking for the killer third. Luckily for Mongolia though, they won a penalty early in the second half and Tsedenbal stepped up with huge responsibility on his shoulders. Score and Mongolia would be back in the driving seat to qualify for the next round, especially when you add away goals into the mix because that would mean Brunei needed two more goals to qualify. 

Miss and the momentum swing even more in favour of Brunei, as they would have believed fate was true with them. Tsedenbal's nerve held and he popped the penalty into the back of the net to effectively send Mongolia through. He also scored an exquisite free kick in the first leg, meaning he was one of the key players helping Mongolia into the next round where they have already exceeded expectations by defeating Myanmar and coming very close to getting a draw against Tajikistan only falling to defeat by an 81st-minute winner. 

These victories brought Mongolian football into a totally different level

Tsedenbal points out how even a small victory in the first round of World Cup qualifying can become a critical juncture for a developing football nation. They have effectively won the right to play against top dogs Japan at home, which would never be possible outside of qualifying because Japan would never even entertain the thought of playing a friendly against the side. 

Tsedenbal states that "To be honest, these victories brought Mongolian football into a totally different level. Mongolian kids usually watch the English Premier League or Spanish La Liga, but from that day they have followed our game, cheering for us. The number of football fans is increasing fast." He reckons at some point football will be as popular as the likes of wrestling, archery and horse racing – all of which is Mongolia's traditional sports. 

This shows the importance of every match, even ones that are considered so small. Without converting that penalty away in Brunei, then Mongolian football would still be stuck in a backwater, with limited interest as fans only cared about watching the big leagues on TV. By plonking that penalty into the back of the net, it has put Mongolian football on the road of improvement and has also encouraged fans to come and watch local football. 

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