CNMI completes stint in AFC tourney

The CNMI U16 Women’s National Team’s Paulynn Joyce, second left, tries to keep the ball away from a Thailand player during their game in the AFC U16 Women’s Championship 2019 Qualifiers last Friday in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Asian Football Confederation Photo)

The CNMI U16 Women’s National Team wrapped up its campaign in the AFC U16 Women’s Championship 2019 Qualifiers after playing its last two games over the weekend in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

The Commonwealth bets dueled Thailand last Friday with the latter winning, 8-0. Then yesterday, the CNMI was pitted against Singapore and results of last night’s match were unavailable as of press time.

Thailand may have won the match by a wide margin, but not after having a hard time scoring in the first half, which ended with the Thais ahead by only a deuce.

“Thailand had a difficult time penetrating the middle area and had to swing the ball left and right to try to separate our defense. Our full backs did so well to cover spaces and opponents and disallowed blind side passes,” assistant coach Angie Ito said.

With CNMI defenders holding their ground, Thailand did not hit the board until the 36th minute off a free kick. The second goal came five minutes later from a cross after a corner kick, according to Ito.

The Commonwealth players managed to limit Thailand’s production after scouting and watching the latter’s match against Singapore and Tajikistan.

“After observing Thailand’s game against Singapore and Tajikistan, coaches have seen that they are a strong, tactical, and technical team. They have key players that create goal scoring opportunities in addition to all their players that have good techniques in controlling and playing the ball. Their off the ball movement is also one of their key tactics in penetrating opponent’s defense,” Ito said.

“The girls knew and understood that we will be playing defensively and with depth in our own half to disallow goal scoring opportunities for our opponents. During the meeting/discussion, we talked about awareness of opponent’s attacking us through the blind side and how they switch the ball when they are not able to penetrate in the middle area,” she added.

After making life difficult for Thailand in the first half, the CNMI, which is hobbled by injuries and other health concerns to some of its players, surrendered six goals in the second.

“Regardless of the loss, we anticipated a tough game against a strong team. Our goal was to minimize their attacking plays and limit them from scoring as much as possible. The girls had their own goal for this game, and that was to keep the score in single digit,” Ito said.

“Thank you to all who are supporting the team and have been behind us from the start. We hope the girls make you proud as they have been doing their best to represent NMI well,” the assistant coach added.

Meanwhile, the results of the CNMI-Singapore tiff will no longer affect the standings of the Group C qualifier. Iran and Thailand had already secured the two spots to Round 2 after winning their first three games. They collided in the other game yesterday, while host Tajikistan was done with the tournament as early as last Saturday, posting a 1-0-3 win-draw-loss mark for fourth place. Singapore held a 1-0-2 mark before its game against the CNMI last night.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.

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