The CNMI Boys U15 National Team may be the underdog in the Asian Football Confederation U16 Championship 2020 Qualifiers, but the group will definitely not back down from its intimidating opponents.
The Commonwealth players are in Group G of the qualifying tournament, which will be held in Jakarta, Indonesia from Sept. 14 to 22, and will be battling the host country, China, Brunei, and the Philippines.
“China will probably be the toughest because it has been placing a lot of efforts and resources in developing football nation-wide and it is rising fast. This said, all matches will be tough for our squad,” Northern Mariana Islands Football Association technical director and the Teen Ayuyus head coach Michiteru Mita said.
“Two years ago, we lost to Indonesia, 18-0. Our opponents, big-country FIFA members, will be coming to the game in full force. But the CNMI will dare to face these challenges with our 100% effort in every game,” Mita added.
The coach and his staff have been pushing the Teen Ayuyus hard in their training sessions at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville with the off-island competition just around the corner. Before resuming its practice sessions at the NMISTC, the 22-player squad went through an eight-day training camp in the Philippines to boost its preparations for the AFC event and gauge the players’ improvement for the past six months. The CNMI bets also played training matches in Guam.
“Through our camp at Tuloy in the Philippines, the areas of improvement in attack and defense became very clear. So we are focusing on those areas now. We are also working to build 90-minute game fitness. We’ve been having a series of games and analysis to track progress and challenges so that we can form our play style towards the tournament,” Mita said.
The NMIFA official admitted having a young and inexperience players would be a challenge for the team, as they will be going up against formidable opponents in Indonesia. However, Mita is pleased with the work ethic that CNMI players are showing and this could work on their advantage come competition time.
“What is great about CNMI players in general is that they try hard and don’t give up even if we may be a ‘small fish in a big AFC pond’. Such attitude can make a big difference,” Mita said.
“The current CNMI U15 team also puts genuine efforts to overcome the challenges and improve every day. With the coaching staff doing a fantastic job, the U15 squad is becoming strongly united,” he added.