The opening game of the EAFF E-1 Football Championship 2019 Mongolia took place at the MFF Stadium in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia on September 2, 2018. This first-round matchup saw Guam top regional rival Northern Mariana Islands 4-0.
Both teams began with an aggressive style of play. The artificial pitch, still wet from the heavy rain that fell throughout the morning, favored a fast-paced game.
The first goal of the day came at the 13th minute, when MENDIOLA Devan controlled a long pass, turned around a defender, and ran into the box. From there he placed a precise shot into the far post that gave Guam the lead.
However, the Northern Marianas Islands’ boys were not passive. They took their first shot of the game at the 17th minute, when a direct free-kick from FRUIT Joel flew over the bar.
Guam’s players showed good organization and excellent individual technique. They worked around Northern Mariana Islands’ intense press defense with quick passes, often aiming to find a way to the goal through vertical through-balls.
In the 23rd minute, CHARGUALAF Mark and LOPEZ Marcus combined for an easy scoring chance, but were denied by a great save from ANINZO Christopher, who was excellent throughout the game.
Guam got their second in the 26th minute when CUNLIFFE Jason dropped the ball to LOPEZ, whose scored with a powerful left diagonal shot from deep within the penalty area.
In the 65th minute, after a few denied attempts, CUNLIFFE managed to slot the ball into the net at close range for Guam’s third.
That third goal came after twenty minutes of the second half, during which Northern Mariana Islands’ defense frustrated their opponents’ attacks. However, their focus wavered and three minutes later, another through ball found LOPEZ, whose run was followed by another goal. Guam pushed ahead to a 4-0 lead, where the score remained until the final whistle.
The game was a convincing display of football for Guam, who are clearly one of the candidates for final victory in this tournament. The Northern Mariana Islands’ skills also showed significant improvement since their last showing in the 2016 tournament.
Guam Manager DODD Karl:
“I want to begin by praising NMI, it was a good match because they have improved a lot lately.
“Regarding us, it was our first match with our new style of play, in which the players need to make a lot of quick decision. It is of course very challenging. I am very happy about the opening 70 minutes, not much with the last 20 minutes, we were a little sloppy in the end, we need to be more consistent.
“But we are getting there, it is all part of the learning process. The players are a good bunch. They can handle anything.”
Northern Mariana Islands Manager MITA Michiteru:
“We are a young team, this kind of International competitions are still challenging for us, but the boys prepared well, and in every match they will show good spirit and do all they can to win. We did lose, but I am very very proud of them. They are building up confidence, they will do better in the next match.
“After a long travel, we had only one day here in Mongolia, so it wasn’t easy to adapt to the cold. Moreover, we come from an island where there are no traffic jams, the environment is very different!”
Guam captain 10 CUNLIFFE Jason:
“Both teams worked hard and play well. Northern Mariana Islands have a young squad, they are trying to bring in new players, as we do. We are both limited in terms of resources, but it was a good game.”
Northern Mariana Islands captain 11. TAKANO Jonathan:
“We are a young team, we need to make more experience. If we look at the result, we lost 4-0, but there also a lot of positives, our boys learned a lot from this match.”
By Cesare Polenghi (twitter)