The CNMI Men's National Team remaines optimistic about their campaign in the EAFF Asian Cup 2013 Preliminary Competition Round despite dropping their opening game against Guam last Wednesday night at Leo Palace in Yona, Guam.
“We're still going out there and play our best against Macau. Even though we lost to Guam, there is nothing to be ashamed of, as we gave them a tough fight, and hopefully we could keep that toughness against Macau tomorrow (today),” said forward Joe Miller, who scored the lone goal in the CNMI's 1-3 defeat to Guam, in a telephone interview with Saipan Tribune yesterday.
“Coach Chikashi Suzuki told our players to forget what happened in the Guam game, move on, and look forward to the game against Macau. A lot of things can still happen with Macau still going to face Guam this Saturday,” team manager Norman Del Rosario said in a separate telephone interview.
He added that CNMI players worked hard to keep Guam from scoring easy goals and the two free kicks and one penalty shot were results of the Commonwealth's intensity on defense.
The visitors stunned the host with an early 1-0 lead off Miller's free kick in the 16th minute. Miller was fouled inside the penalty box, as he received a pass from Peter Loken, went for the ball, and was pushed by a Guam defender. He attempted the free kick from the right side with the ball rolling past the left corner of Guam's goalie.
The CNMI held the lead for less than 10 minutes before Guam was also given a free kick off William Dunn's foul and Jason Cunliffe connected on the equalizer against CNMI goalie Daniel Stafford.
The first half went on to end in a deadlock and the Commonwealth strikers remained afloat in the first 15 minutes of the second half as their defense neutralized Guam's attackers.
However, another foul on Dunn gave Cunliffe a free kick and several minutes later, Kirk Schuler was called for a hand ball, bringing Cunliffe to the box for the penalty kick which the Guam striker completed for a hat-trick.
With the win, Guam has the early lead in the three-nation qualifier. A win over Macau tomorrow will move the host to the second round, which will be played in Hong Kong in October this year. A CNMI victory over Macau today and a latter's win over Guam tomorrow will create a three-way tie and goal difference will be the deciding factor in the deadlock. In case of another tie, the team with the most goals wins the qualifier.
Meanwhile, in the women's division, the CNMI was bound for another loss, as it was behind Hong Kong yesterday, 0-11. The final scores were not available at press time last night, as the CNMI and Hong Kong had 20 minutes left in their match. The CNMI female strikers had earlier bowed to Guam, 0-6.