A FIFA member since 2005, this tiny nation in south-east Asia is taking part in a FIFA World Cup™ qualifying competition for only the third time. Having lost all four of their previous qualifiers, Timor-Leste have already broken new ground in the AFC preliminaries for Russia 2018, beating Mongolia in the first round.
With no local leagues to play in and only a few pitches available for them to train on, the players who make up the Timor-Leste side, deserve a lot of credit. "They’re humble people who give up hours of work to come and play, which is something of a luxury in such a poor country," said former national team captain Alfredo Estevez.
Chiquito do Carmo, who plays in the Indonesian league, and Fabiano, who runs out for Kazma in Kuwait, are perhaps Timor-Leste’s best-known players and carry the hopes of hard-working and committed side.
Brazilian coach Fabio Joaquim da Silva took charge of the team at the start of 2015 and wasted no time in moulding a group of inexperienced players into a side that has more than made a mark on the country’s footballing history. Before moving into coaching, Da Silva enjoyed a modest playing career as a midfielder, starting out in the youth ranks at Flamengo before playing for a number of other Brazilian clubs and in the United Arab Emirates.
21 - the approximate average age of the national team, an accurate reflection of a country where over 60 per cent of the population is under 25.
The former stars
Emilio da Silva, Alfredo Esteves, Joao Pereira