5 Sep 2019

Sport: Guam footballers look to kick on in qualifying

2:36 pm on 5 September 2019

The Guam men's football team are looking to pick up where they left off in today's FIFA World Cup and Asian Cup qualifying match against the Maldives.

The Matao advanced to the second round after beating Bhutan 5-1 on aggregate back in June and will play home and away over the next nine months against China, Syria, the Maldives and the Philippines.

Guam captain Jason Cunliffe put in a man of the match performance.

Guam captain Jason Cunliffe scored a hat-trick against Bhutan. Photo: Guam Football Association

Head coach Karl Dodd said the 5-0 home win over Bhutan in the second leg was a huge confidence boost for the entire squad.

"It's the belief. They have to believe themselves, they're good players. For whatever reason they don't back themselves enough and they need to," he said.

"They showed that they can play football and a dominant style of football and that's what's been pleasing in the preparations - that's been getting better and better and more consistent and that should become second nature come game-day."

Guam men's football coach Karl Dodd (c) wants a better performance in the return leg against Bhutan.

Guam coach Karl Dodd (c). Photo: Bhutan Football Federation

The Maldives are ranked 152 in the world, 38 places ahead of Guam, but after analysing their matches over recent months Dodd is backing his team to perform.

"The last time they played was against Malaysia. They were involved in the islands games recently but they did field a younger team that didn't do too well in those games but we're aware of what we've got to deal with," he said.

"This game will fit in nicely with our playing style. We don't have to change anything, we can just go out and play our way both in attack and defence so that's also a good opportunity to polish our playing style."

Guam will also host the Philippines in Dededo next week and Dodd said back-to-back home games presentesd a chance to build on their last performance.

"The effect it's had in the community and the younger footballing players has been fantastic and we're just showing to them if you give 100 percent anything is possible, and that's what we're working on," he said. "We're just focused on being brave and continually improving each game. That's all I can ask from the players and the result will take care of itself."

"In the past maybe there was a big emphasis on off-island players. There are players on this island that are just as good if not better and should be in professional clubs in my opinion - if given the chance they would definitely hold their own.

"Just the amount of island boys that were in the starting line-up for the 5-0 Bhutan game - it's great for them to see. They see there's opportunity, they see there's hope so they will start to invest their time and energy into the programme and that's great to see because there's some very talented players on the island."

Guam captain Jason Cunliffe challenges for the ball during the Matao's FIFA World Cup and Asian Cup first round qualifying match in Bhutan.

Guam captain Jason Cunliffe challenges for the ball during the Matao's FIFA World Cup and Asian Cup first round qualifying match in Bhutan. Photo: Bhutan Football Federation