Having joined FIFA only in 1998, Mongolia have traditionally been known as a country more devoted to horseback riding than football. The results in their first FIFA World Cup™ qualifying campaign certainly bear this out.
In the run up to Asia's first FIFA World Cup finals in Korea/Japan 2002, Mongolia suffered five consecutive defeats in their preliminary group that included Saudi Arabia, Vietnam SR and Bangladesh. Mongolia earned their first point in an exciting 2-2 draw with the Bangladeshis - Bold Buman-Uchral scoring a 94 th minute equaliser.
Some progress has since been made. Besides their perseverance and physical energy, the players have shown improvement with tactics and technique. In the qualifying preliminaries for the 2004 Asian Cup, they beat Guam impressively 5-0 (Ganbaatar Tugsbayer scoring a hat-trick), though they were still eliminated by Bhutan, who they held to a scoreless draw, on goal difference.
. More disappointment came in the preliminaries for Germany 2006. A positive performance in a 1-0 home loss to the Maldives gave way to a disheartening 11-goal rampage in the second leg in Male. A sad ending to what was hoped to be a longer competition.
The lack of optimism on the continental stage is not helped by the fact that they have been pitted against a formidable Korea DPR in a two-legged preliminary meeting when they start their qualifying attempt for 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. However, under coach Ishdorj Otgonbayar, the East Asian side will definitely be keen to prove they are not just making up the numbers.