Matao advances to final round of AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers

[March 31, 2016 - Harmon, Guam] Guam is just one round away from qualifying to compete in its maiden AFC Asian Cup tournament based on results from the recently concluded 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia and AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Joint Preliminary Qualification Round 2.

Due to gaining one of the highest amounts of points in their final position in the Round 2 Qualifier table, the Matao automatically advanced to the final round of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Qualifiers. Less than five years ago, Guam had been ranked at No. 46 in Asia but now proudly sit in at No. 25 based on Round 2 Qualifier rankings by AFC.

“This is a massive achievement for Guam and is testament to the progress of the country’s national program and its players,” said Gary J. White, head coach of the Matao. “Never before has Guam come close to qualifying for the continent’s most prestigious tournament in previous qualifiers and here we are now, with the Matao just one round away from competing to be Asia’s champion. All players and staff on the team, who’ve worked exceptionally hard through our Round 2 qualification matches, are ecstatic and look forward to continue making history for Guam football. 

“Credit also goes to Guam Football Association President Richard Lai and his vision for the sport in Guam that we both share, GFA executives and staff, local business sponsors, and supporters at home and abroad. None of this would be possible without the collective effort by all,” White added.

Guam finished Round 2 with narrow 1-0 away loss to Asian Gulf powerhouse Oman on Mar. 24. The close game was decided by what some have called the most blatant offside goal of the century, White said.

Of Guam’s Group D FIFA World Cup qualifying matches, only Asia’s No. 1-ranked country, I.R. Iran, was able to defeat Guam by more than one goal, with every other game decided by a one-goal margin.

“This feat is not bad considering no one in the football world gave Guam any chance of qualifying for the next round of either the FIFA World Cup or Asian Cup once the draw was made,” White said. “The Matao's wins against Turkmenistan and India and a draw with Oman in its first three home matches at the GFA National Training Center have already gone down in football folklore.”

Oman and Turkmenistan have advanced alongside Guam for the final qualification round of the Asian Cup while India, which finished in last place in the group, will enter a playoff round to fight for a spot in the same final qualification round.

I.R. Iran, top finisher in Group D, moves on the next round of qualification for the FIFA World Cup and is automatically one of 12 teams already set to play the AFC Asian Cup in 2019.

The bottom four fourth-place teams and all last-place teams will compete in playoff rounds in June and September this year, with only eight moving on to the final round of qualifiers where the Matao will be waiting.

Australia is the defending Asian Cup champion, defeating Korea Republic 2-1 after extra time in front of a home crowd in the 2015 edition of the tournament. Japan leads all countries in most Asian Cup championship wins with four – its first in 1992 as hosts of that year’s edition of the tournament, and again in 2000, 2004, and 2011.

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