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MATAO IMPROVES TO NO. 178

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PRESS RELEASE – Guam is quickly becoming one of the more notably moving FIFA-member nations in the Asian Football Confederation, achieving its best ranking ever at No. 178 in the most recently released FIFA world rankings.

Matao head coach Gary White (background, in black) watches Matao captain Jason Cunliffe (10) warm up with the starting 10 players before the team’s match against Chinese Taipei in the recently concluded Philippines Football Peace Cup at Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila, Philippines. The Matao, Guam men’s national football team, finished as second runner up in the tournament. Following the tournament, Guam’s FIFA world-ranking rose seven places to No. 178, the best-ever ranking for the island to date. (courtesy photo)

“I’m definitely stoked,” said Matao captain Jason Cunliffe. “I don’t think anyone on the team has been a fan of Guam soccer as long as I have. I’m going on 24 years of playing and that’s more than the ages of a lot of the guys on the team.

“The new ranking gives credence to all the work put in and a new motivation to continue pushing forward, but we also need to keep it in perspective. It’s just a ranking and we still have more to achieve – we need to get even better results on the field in terms of more W’s,” Cunliffe added.

The Matao earned the most recent seven-spot jump in the rankings after competing in the Philippines Football Peace Cup last month. Guam played close games against higher-ranked opponents, the Philippines and Chinese Taipei, and shut out Macau 3-0 for the second time this year. The Philippines also moved up in the rankings following the tournament, while Chinese Taipei remained stagnant at No. 176.

“A lot of the credit must go to Guam Football Association President Richard Lai and the GFA executives, the national team staff, players and sponsors,” said Matao head coach Gary White. “Without forward thinkers like them, with the foresight to bring in people like me and implement developmental programs, we would never move forward.

“The jump in ranking is a good indication of where Guam’s entire national program is going – not just the men’s team – but also the National Academy and the coaches education program. This is just the beginning of a very positive time in Guam football,” White added.

The Matao has one more tournament before the end of the year – the semifinal round of the East Asian Football Championship in December in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, Guam will face Chinese Taipei for the second time this year, No. 160-ranked Hong Kong, No. 86-ranked North Korea and No. 34-ranked Australia.

Guam earned the right to play in the semifinal round by winning the tournament’s preliminary competition in July. The success in the July tournament earned the team an invitation to play in the tournament in the Philippines.

“First and foremost, getting the matches to play contributed to attaining our new and best-ever ranking,” Cunliffe said. “With the Gaffer (White) in and implementing our program, we were given those opportunities.

http://iconnectasia.com/iconnectguam/“If we didn’t win the preliminary competition of the East Asian Football Championship and if we didn’t get invited to play in the Philippines Football Peace Cup, none of this would have happened,” Cunliffe added.

Guam best ranking previously was 184, achieved in 2009 after qualifying for the 2010 East Asian Football Championship semifinal round for the first time, and again earlier this year immediately after qualifying for the 2013 edition of the same tournament.

White officially took the helm of the men’s national team in February this year. Since February, the Matao has made several strides in the football world, including jumping a total of 17 spots in the FIFA world rankings in just seven months, defeating Macau at the senior level for the first time and again a second time, and winning all of its EAFF tournament preliminary competition matches to advance to the semifinal round. Additionally, for the first time, a player from Guam – Cunliffe – received both the Golden Boot and MVP awards from the EAFF tournament preliminary competition.

Similarly, White has assisted tremendously in the soccer development of other island nations. While at the helm of the Bahamas national team, the island nation earned the distinction of Best Mover in September 2006 (up 55 ranking spots). The country had gone from as low as 189 to 138 under White. He had also helped the British Virgin Islands move up 28 spots in the FIFA world ranking.

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