The CNMI Men's National Team played their best and last game in the Asian Football Confederation 2014 Challenge Cup Qualifiers last Wednesday night, limiting Bangladesh to only four goals.
The Bengal Tigers' four goals were the least the Blue Ayuyus allowed in the entire Group D tournament held at the Dashrath Stadium in Kathmandu, Nepal. Against the host, the CNMI gave up six goals, while group winner Palestine gained nine goals versus the Blue Ayuyus.
“The game against Bangladesh was our best. The team played well together and gave their best effort. We fell a little short in the end, but we showed a great improvement from the first two games and that is encouraging,” team official Wes Bogdan said in an email sent to Saipan Tribune last Wednesday night.
After Bangladesh got an early goal off Mohammad Toklis Ahmed's shot in the second minute, the CNMI stepped up on defense and held the Tigers scoreless for more than 30 minutes. Bangladesh then got its second goal off in the 37th minute for a 2-0 halftime lead.
In the second half, the Blue Ayuyus were more aggressive on defense, as Bangladesh only found the back of the net past the 80th mark with Ahmed notching his second goal and defender Mohammad Linkon scoring seven minutes later.
Thirteen players suited up for the CNMI in its last game in the qualifier. The list includes goalkeeper Johann Noetzel and co-captains Trey Dunn and Joe Miller, Nick Swaim, Lucas Knech, Steve McKagan, Dan Westphal, Yuki Adachi, Peter Loken, Bo Barry, and Dae Won Jeon, and substitutes Ruselle Zapanta and Jehn Joyner.
The team is returning to Saipan on Wednesday and despite dropping all its matches, the group is still in high spirit.
“The team's spirit is high. Visiting Nepal and learning what competitive football in Asia is really like is an experience that will never be forgotten. Coach Koo is proud of the efforts everyone gave. He said some of his goals for this competition were to make a good impression in our first Asian Football Confederation competition and to show the fans here in Nepal that we love football in the Northern Mariana Islands. He said we have achieved those goals and gained valuable experience from this competition,” Bogdan said.
The team official also thanked their supporters who followed their games through the internet.
“We want to thank all those who posted information on the internet and sent emails. The Northern Mariana spirit was felt all the way to Nepal. We look forward to coming home and thank you for your support,” he added.