After a slow start, the Guam Men’s National Team never recovered against the Republic of Maldives.
During Thursday’s FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Preliminary Qualification, the Matao, No. 190 world-ranked team, succumbed to the Maldives, 1-0.
The Maldives boasts a No. 152 world ranking.
The Round 2 qualifier, the first of eight, was played at the Guam Football Association National Training Center.
“It took us a long time to get going and start playing football,” said Karl Dodd, Matao head coach. “Not starting to play until the second half is not good enough.”
In the 26th minute, Maldives took advantage of a flat Guam squad with a low cross from Ibrahim Mahudhee past a diving Dallas Jeffrey Jaye, the Matao goalkeeper.
Dodd said his team “was a little naive on the goal.”
“We do have a lot of new players getting experience so that’s to be expected,” he said.
“You’re dealing with two nations, especially Guam, that doesn’t get a lot of exposure to national team football, and games," he added. "When you have regular games at a professional level, you’re a lot more confident going into a game. ... It’s just another game. When you have long breaks between games and you don’t play enough that, that first game is always tough.”
After surrendering the game’s only goal, the Matao’s intensity picked up but failed to find the back of the net.
Late in the second half, Team Guam’s Devan Jakob Mendiola entered from the bench and had a couple of shots sail wide.
“Devan picked up an ankle knock a couple of weeks ago, so, he’s just coming back from injury,” Dodd said.
Next up for the Matao, at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, they will take on Philippines Azkals at GFA. The Azkals, the Philippines Men’s National Soccer Team, is ranked No. 126 in the world.
“The teams are ranked higher. I understand that,” Dodd said. “At the end of the day, they’re human beings, just wearing a different colored shirt. … We just have to be brave, and believe in ourselves.”