Matao eager for win against Cambodia

NEXT TARGET UP: Guam's Marcus Lopez attempts to push past Cambodia's Tes Sambath to the goal during the first of two Playoff Round matches of the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Qualifiers at the Khalifa Sports City Stadium Saturday evening in Bahrain. Cambodia won the first match 1-0. Photo courtesy of Sayed Hussain via GFA

After dropping their first match Oct. 9 1-0 to Cambodia, the Matao, Guam men’s national team, is eager for their second shot in its final opportunity to advance to the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Final Qualification Round slated for Oct. 12 in Bahrain.

Head coach Sang Hoon Kim said he was disappointed in the first match, but will be utilizing the next few days to assess and evaluate their performance.

“We had a few players make their debut for Guam in Saturday’s match and they immediately made an impact on the pitch,” he said. “I am happy with how the team is progressing overall. Now, it’s a matter of fully capitalizing on finishing opportunities we create, while maintaining high performance levels for the full 90 minutes."

Guam will play against Cambodia again in the second leg of the tournament’s Qualifiers Playoff Round on Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. Bahrain time (2 a.m. Oct. 13 Guam time) and must win by at least two goals to advance in the continent’s premier tournament.

Cambodia scored the game winner Saturday evening in the 26th minute off a strike by Chan Vathanaka. Although the Matao turned up the intensity for the remainder of the match, the Cambodian side managed to hold on to the one-goal advantage to the final whistle.

Kim said there were several key takeaways from the Oct. 9 match, with Guam holding more possessions than Cambodia from the 30th minute on.

“This contains a hopeful message for the next game, and the players’ desire to win the next game is enormous. Including the Matao’s captain Jason (Cunliffe) and all players are united as a team and look forward to the next game," he said.

There are several scenarios, but Guam can secure its seat with a two-goal win.

Players making their debut for Guam in Saturday’s match were Alec Taitague and James Gomez, both starters in their first-ever call up to the Matao. Taitague is currently a senior at Roanoke College that plays in NCAA Div. III’s Old Dominion Athletic Conference. Gomez is a junior at Polytechnic High School in Pasadena, Calif.

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