The CNMI U16 National Team will begin its campaign in the AFC U16 Qualifying Tournament today when it faces host China at the Hankou Culture and Sports Stadium in Wuhan.
The Teen Ayuyus will play China in the second game in Group I qualifier at 7:35pm (9:35pm Saipan time) or after the opening match between Myanmar and North Korea at 3:30pm. The Commonwealth bets arrived in Wuhan yesterday after a series of flight delays and cancellations due to the in the Philippines and China and will have to prepare against the host squad in less than 24 hours.
Team manager Wesley Bogdan, in a post at the unofficial website of the Teen Ayuyus, said the squad was scheduled to leave Guangzhou for Wuhan yesterday afternoon and the players are fine despite waiting for a long day to reach their final destination.
The CNMI U16 National Team is composed of William Hinson II, Kennedy Izuka, Ryan and Reniel Relucio, Joel Fruit, Ryu Tanzawa, Carlson Cruzat, Kenneth Mafnas, Jordan Butcher, Won Young Kim, Julian Pellegrino, Joshua Galario, Deng Jin Hui, Aaron Lee, Green Vidal, John Masga, Ivan Seo, Evan Belcher, and David Yang. Northern Mariana Islands Football Association technical director Johann Noetzel is the coach and is assisted by Jershwin Angeles.
Noetzel during the send-off ceremony for the Teen Ayuyus last Friday said they are expecting a tough game against China considering the host’s higher skill level and the homecourt advantage.
After the match against China, the CNMI will meet Group I favorite North Korea this Friday in the first game at 3:30pm. Again, the Teen Ayuyus will be up against highly skilled foes and Noetzel said they will push for a respectable finish against the North Koreans.
Noetzel’s wards will close out their bid in the qualifier on Sunday against Myanmar and the CNMI coach liked his team’s chances versus the developing South East Asian country.
“Against Myanmar, we have a good chance of walking out with a positive result. We watched Myanmar and its players love to play a physical game, but are not so technically apt, so we prepared for that. We will try to exploit their lack of strong technical skills,” Noetzel said.
The top finisher in the CNMI’s group will advance to the AFC U16 Championships that will be held in Bangkok, Thailand next year. There are 10 pools in the qualifier and some groups have already started their tournament, while the event in China is held simultaneously with the Group J qualifier in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, which the CNMI met in its connecting flight in Manila last Monday, are competing in Group I.