The CNMI Girls U15 National Team survived an emotional and physical game against Mongolia last Tuesday in the 2019 East Asian Football Federation U15 Girls Festival at the Mokpo International Football Training Center in South Korea.
The match ended in a draw, 1-1, after Mongolia made a penalty kick off a questionable foul slapped against the CNMI in the 37th minute. Earlier in the 11th minute, Summer Manahane drew first blood, as she found the back of the net off a rebound from Kaithlyn Chavez’s missed attempt.
As they tried to hang on to a shaky lead, the Commonwealth players held their ground against the aggressive plays of Mongolia, either deflecting and intercepting the ball or kicking it out of play to disrupt their opponent’s momentum. The CNMI then nearly kept the advantage at halftime until a battle for the ball paved the way for a costly penalty kick.
“Mongolia penetrated through our defensive line from the right flank and our center defender tried to clear the ball out of the box, but went towards the middle area instead. With that, the CNMI and Mongolia scrambled for the ball in our penalty area. As the CNMI struggled to clear the ball out, the referee whistled and pointed at the PK spot. Not knowing how and what happened, one of the Mongolian players was down holding on to her leg,” team manager Angie Ito said.
Mongolia midfielder and captain Nergui Purevdorj was the designated hitter and eventually knocked in the equalizer.
With the match tied, the opposing teams made repeated attempts to break the deadlock, but the defense of neither squad was not willing to give up.
“It was a really rough match, and our girls were getting frustrated with the referees for not calling a few fouls against Mongolia,” said the team manager, adding that before the match the squad was already briefed on the anticipated physicality of the game. “Mongolia had a few more attempts against our goal, but our players held them off.”
When the duel ended, emotions were still high and the coaching staff led by Luem Khen Koo had all praises to the players.
“During the team’s cool down, coach Koo asked the girls why they looked frustrated when we had a good result and a good game. The girls simply answered, ‘we should have won that game, coach.’ As coaches, seeing the girls’ mentality develop into this shows that they are hungry to win,” Ito said
Prior to their meeting last Tuesday, the CNMI bowed to Mongolia (0-3) in the same event three years ago.
“Of course, our girls still have a long way, but if the game was streamed live, you would see how much heart was put out on the field to try to win the game—not to force a draw, but to actually win the game,” Ito added. “The coaching staff is so proud of our players.”
Meanwhile, the CNMI bets were scheduled to play their third straight match yesterday against the unbeaten Hong Kong, which hammered Mongolia, 7-0, and topped Guam, 3-1.
After last night’s match, the CNMI will take a break today before playing two more matches against Group A teams—host Korea, Japan, China, and Chinese-Taipei. The last two assignments of the Commonwealth bets will depend on the rankings in Groups A and B. In the second round of the festivals, the No. 1 team in Group A will take on the No. 2 in Group B and vice versa, while the other pairings will be No. 3 and 4 from the two pools.
Korea is done in the first phase of the tournament, as it won over Chinese-Taipei, 3-2, and Japan, 2-1, and lost to China, 0-2. China has a 1-1 mark (losing to Japan 0-4), pending results of its game against Chinese-Taipei yesterday. Japan was 2-1, as it got its second victory over Chinese-Taipei, 9-0. In Group B, Hong Kong is likely to finish on top, but the No. 2 to 4 rankings will be determined after last night’s game between Guam and Mongolia.