After Matao soundly beat Bhutan 5-0 on Tuesday afternoon at the Guam Football Association National Training Center in Harmon, the Guam team became one of six teams that will advance into the second round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 Preliminary Joint Qualifications.
This is a momentous occasion. Guam, with a 193 FIFA ranking, will get to play in eight more World Cup qualifying games, giving the team a chance to test their skills against some of the larger nations from this region.
“As a competitor, you want to play against the best to test yourselves, regardless of the results,” Matao Captain Jason Cunliffe said. “As the player that I am, I would like to go against the best teams and players on the continent.”
“If I had a choice which team I would want to go against,” Cunliffe turned and pointed to his head coach and said, “I want to go against Australia.”
Matao head coach Karl Dodd was a former professional Australian football player. When asked if he wanted to go up against Australia, Dodd smiled and said, “That would be perfect. I will take that every day.”
“I think everyone wants to play against their home country,” Dodd said. “But I think it's just fantastic that we get eight more games, which is huge for the island.”
Expectations for Matao
Dodd said he expects that the team will work even harder than they worked during Round 1. The draw for the second round will be held on July 17 in Doha, Qatar. Then the first matches of the second round will begin on Sept. 5 and go until November.
“Regarding training and preparations for the players who are on and off island, it will be months,” Dodd said. “We will wait on the draw, we will see who we are up against, and I guess then we will know how we will set up technically. September, October and November are the FIFA windows this year. But I think we still need to keep working on our basics during the interim period.”
In the meantime, Dodd said the team will continue to train, while he monitors the games of the team's players who are off island playing in the United Soccer League and Major League Soccer.
“We are looking forward to the next eight games,” Dodd said. “The team will be very keen and motivated to practice.”
As for practices, Dodd expects sessions to go well for the Matao.
“I know there won’t be an issue with them turning up. There were also 14 players who trained with us, but were not selected to play with the squad,” he said. “Kudos goes out to those guys. That’s unfortunate that they were not selected but it allows us to have really good training sessions and they are also fighting for a position on the team. “
Others advance to next round
Following Tuesday night’s late games, the other four countries that also advance into the second round are Bangladesh, Cambodia, Malaysia and Mongolia. The game between Sri Lanka and Macau was postponed. Macau owns the first game 1-0 over Sri Lanka.