The Matao’s intensity and passion were high, but scoring only one goal wasn’t enough against the powerhouse Azkals.
During Tuesday’s FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Preliminary Qualification Round 2, the Matao lost to the Azkals, 4-1. The match took place in front of more than 1,000 fans at the Guam Football Association National Training Center in Harmon.
The Matao, also referred to as the Guam Men’s National Soccer Team, are the No. 190 world-ranked team. The Azkals, also known as the Philippines Men’s National Soccer Team, are world-ranked No. 126.
The Azkals, who suffered a brutal 5-2 loss in their tournament opener against Syria, entered Guam’s pitch with a purpose. Team Guam, having lost their opener to the Republic of Maldives 1-0, needed a win or risk dropping to the bottom of Group A.
The Matao, as they did against the Maldives, started the game on their heals. At the seventh minute, Philippines team captain Stephan Schrock crossed to Angel Guirado for a header past goalkeeper Dallas Jeffrey Jaye.
Five minutes later, the Philippines’ Patrick Reichelt beat Jaye after receiving a through ball from Schrock.
Trailing 2-0, Guam didn’t pack it in. Peppering goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard to close out the first half and to start the second, Guam didn’t give up. Twelve minutes into the final period, the Matao’s persistence paid off.
After Guam’s Travis Nicklaw was fouled deep in the Philippines’ box, Marcus Lopez coolly punched a penalty shot past a diving Falkesgaard.
The Philippines, their lead cut in half, responded with a goal from Schrock. At the 71st minute, Schrock dribbled through Guam’s defense for a point-blank score.
Eleven minutes later, the Azkals’ John Patrick Strauss added to the lead.
“Hats off to Guam,” said Martin Steuble, a Philippines defender. "They gave us a good game and a good fight. What’s very respectful of them, after 2-0, they didn’t let go. They kept trying.”
Daniel McBreen, Matao acting head coach, was proud of his team’s effort.
“I think the difference (between) the two teams today was the ruthlessness of their chances,” McBreen said. “We made some silly mistakes, early, and we got punished. We created a host of chances, and we didn’t put the ball in. When you do that against good teams, you make it very difficult for yourself.”
With two losses and their chance of advancement to Round 3 at stake, Guam’s upcoming matches are only going to get tougher. On Oct. 10, the Matao take on the People’s Republic of China, in China. China PR, the top team in Group A, boasts a No. 71 world ranking.
On Oct 15, the Matao is scheduled to play Syria, on Guam. Syria is the No. 87 world-ranked team.
“At the end of the day, all that matters is the result in football,” said Matao team captain Jason Cunliffe. “Obviously, losing two matches wasn’t in the plans, so we have to get those points somewhere else.”