It’s game on for the CNMI and Guam, as their rivalry will be showcased anew in tomorrow’s Marianas Cup 2019 at the Guam Football Association National Training Center in Dededo.
First up is the women’s U19 matchup at 3pm, while the duel between the opposing teams’ men’s U19/U23 crews will take place at 5:15pm.
The CNMI Women’s U19 National Team is looking the duplicate the 3-2 victory it posted against Guam during the Marianas Cup 2018 hosted at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville.
“We’ve already proven last year that we are capable of winning against Guam and if we will keep pushing ourselves hard and do extra ordinary things, we have a pretty good chance of beating them again,” said co-captain Britany Wally, who with the 17 other members of the team and its officials attended a send-off ceremony hosted by Northern Mariana Islands Football Association at Kanoa Resort.
Joining Wally on the team are co-captain Guine Borja, Gillian Villagomez, Katrina Costales, Jerlyn Castillo, Emalyn Aniana, Sharmaine Francisco, Julianne Hall, Gianna Griffin, Mia Carreon, Nathanette Blas, Jenny Ann Capayas, Andrei Kaithlynn Chavez, Marinel Falalimpa, Christina Atalig, Jannah Casarino, and Khristelle Itaas. Head coach Luem Khen Koo will call the shots for the CNMI and will be assisted by Lalaine Pagarao and Jimmy Tang, while Angie Ito and Pam Carhill are the team manager and physiotherapist, respectively.
Koo admitted that last year’s win over Guam is a big motivation for his wards, but this Saturday’s match is much more challenging because they will be playing against the home crowd.
“I would say it’s 50-50 chances. We have to be focus all the time because one small error could cost us the game,” Koo said.
Despite falling short in the last Marianas Cup, Guam coach Maggie Phillips believes they have the psychological edge over the visiting squad.
“With all due respect I would argue that it is actually the Guam women that have the psychological edge. We were able to have our rematch against NMI at the Jockey Club Invitational in Hong Kong just a few months ago where Guam came out on top (3-2). With this recent win and the fact that we will be the home team gives us a significant advantage. The women have been training hard consistently and are very much looking forward to one of our favorite matches of the year,” Philips said.
Meanwhile, the CNMI Men’s U19/U23 also acknowledged how the crowd will play a role in their game this weekend.
“We just have to find a way not to get destructed by the crowd or anything. Concentration is very important, especially we are playing against the home team,” said captain Enrico Del Rosario, adding that the sting of the loss to Guam last year is still with the team, but they are using it as extra motivation.
“After that loss, the team is hungrier to win and we have been working hard in every training session to get ready for this tough game,” Del Rosario added.
Last year, the CNMI was ahead, 4-3, at the closing seconds of the extra time (four minutes), but committed a defensive meltdown, allowing Guam to score and send the game into a shootout, which the visitors eventually won, 5-3.
The heartbreaker, according to head coach Michiteru Mita, was a good learning experience for the squad.
“Now, they know why is it very important to play consistently for 90 minutes and in extra time, if there is. Our players have also improved their fitness, as majority of them are doing their own conditioning, working out in a gym or jogging when we are not training,” said Mita, who will be assisted by Jersh Angeles.
Completing the CNMI Men’s U19/U23 National Team delegation are NMIFA executive director Ruselle Zapanta, players Chris Aninzo, Sunjoon Tenorio, Dai Podziewski, Joshua Abragan, Razeff Altamirano, Thaiphi Austria, Taka Borja, John Bucayo, Jonathan Capayas, Joshua De Leon, Anthony Fruit, Eunsyu Hahn, Sebastien Manabat, Ronnel Ocanada, Joshua Mendez, Skyler Poon, John Michael Rojas, Merrick Toves, Joshua Waldo, Mareko Tekopua, Hark Galarion, and Ryu Tanzawa, team manager Norman Del Rosario, and kit manager Ryan Relucio.
The Ayuyus will face some familiar faces, but a different Guam team, according to coach Karl Dodd.
“The last time we met we were in our infancy with the new program and it was testament to the hard work and mindsets of the players that they were able to come from behind. We have been working hard for over a year now and have progressed nicely. I think you will find a different team to the one that came from behind last time,” Dodd said.
‘Do your best’
NMIFA Executive Committee member and CNMI Superior Court Associate Judge Wesley Bogdan led the wellwishers of the national teams in yesterday’s send-off ceremony.
“The CNMI and Guam have this special rivalry and every time we play in the Marianas Cup, it brings out the best in us, so do you best and represent the CNMI well,” said Bogdan, who suited up for the CNMI Men’s National Team that faced Guam in the first Marianas Cup in 2007. Guam won, 3-2.
NMIFA president Jerry Tan was also present in the send-off event and thanked all the stakeholders for making the staging of the Marianas Cup possible and for the programs that benefit our national teams, clubs, and officials.
“We thanked the Guam Football Association for being a gracious hosts, the Japan Football Association and Tuloy Foundation for hosting our national teams in their training camps, and of course the Asian Football Confederation for all the assistance they are giving us,” Tan said.
“NMIFA would also like to thank the players’ parents, who have been with their children, supporting them in their journey since these kids joined our program,” he added.