The South Indian Ocean islanders are regarded as the most skilful in South Asia while the difference between the side's home and away form was on display again in their Asian Zone preliminaries for Germany 2006. A surprisingly tight 1-0 loss in Mongolia was forgotten four days later with a powerful 11-0 dismantling in Male. While the result was positive, the disparity makes one wonder about their ability to withstand tougher road challenges in the future.
Despite losing on penalties in the 2003 South Asian (SAFF) Championship against hosts Bangladesh, they won over the crowds with their attractive and free-flowing brand of football. They shocked 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™ finalists China the same way when they held the Asian powerhouses 1-0 at home following a 10-1 away defeat.
The skillful islanders produced magic moments in the second round of qualifying for Germany 2006, holding 2002 FIFA World Cup semi-finalists Korea Republic to a goalless draw in the second match, a stunning result which cost Portuguese coach Humberto Coelho his job. In the penultimate match, they grabbed their first group victory when they defeated Vietnam 3-0 convincingly on home soil. Only four points from six matches was not enough for a spot in the last eight, but the experience they gained and the lessons they learned will undoubtedly help in the future.
Bulgarian coach Iodan Ivanov breathed new life into the team and their progress didn't go unnoticed in front of the world as they shot up to 126 th place, the best in their history, in the FIFA/Coca Cola World Ranking in July 2006. Under Ivanov, the team will be determined to break new ground when they open the qualifying campaign for 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ with a two-legged preliminary on 8 and 28 October.