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MATAO PREPS FOR 2018 FIFA WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS

The success of the Matao in 2014 resulted in another accolade: direct entry to the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers beginning June 2015.

(courtesy photo: The Matao, Guam men’s national team pose for a group photo during the EAFF East Asian Cup semifinal round in Chinese Taipei held in November 2014. Front row from left to right are Equipment Manager Robby De Guzman, Goalkeeper Coach Johann Noetzel, Assistant Coach James Okuhama, Head Coach Gary White, Team Physiotherapist Richard Coombs, and Team Manager Ross Awa. Middle rows from left to right are Douglas Herrick, Shane Malcolm, Shawn Nicklaw, Marcus Lopez, Mason Grimes, John Matkin, Travis Nicklaw, Jason Cunliffe, Micah Paulino, Jonahan Romero and Devin Mendiola. Back row from left to right are Ricky Katsumata, Ryan Guy, A.J. DeLaGarza, Dominic Gadia, Scott Leon Guerrero, Mark Chargualaf, Dylan Naputi, and Joseph Laanan.)

PRESS RELEASE – The success of the Matao in 2014 resulted in another accolade: direct entry to the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers beginning June 2015.

“Just a few months ago, I was lauding the Matao’s successful showing at the EAFF East Asian Semifinal Round in Chinese Taipei, where Guam defeated the home team, drew for the first time with Hong Kong and kept everyone at the edge of their seats against DPR Korea,” said Guam Football Association President Richard Lai. “Now, it gives me great pride to officially announce Guam’s entry directly into 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. The Matao’s overall success in 2014 catapulted the team past the pre-qualifying stage, which is reserved for the bottom 12 countries in Asia.

“It’s always an honor to represent Guam in international competition, but playing at the highest level to hopefully gain entry to the world’s largest sporting event – the FIFA World Cup – is a dream come true for football athletes,” Lai added.

The Asian Football Confederation recently sent official communication to all member nations announcing the start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification stages in 2015, separating the continent’s 12 lowest-ranked countries into a pre-qualification stage to be contested in March. Placement was based on the January 2015 release of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, according to the official letter from AFC. Guam is ranked No. 161 in the world and No. 33 in Asia based on the January release.

Countries in the pre-qualifier will compete in one set of home and away legs, with the top six countries from that pool earning spots in the next round of qualifiers. Among the pool of 12 countries in the pre-qualification stage are India – one of the most populated countries in the world with over one billion people – and Guam’s East-Asia rivals Chinese Taipei, Macau, and Mongolia.

“Direct entry into the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers exemplifies my desire and drive, as well as that of the staff and every player that has played their part since my arrival and over the past three years that I’ve been at the helm of the team – I couldn’t be any prouder as a head coach,” said Matao head coach and GFA Technical Director Gary White. “The team’s recent accomplishments would not be possible without the shared vision of success by GFA President Richard Lai, Vice President Joe Cepeda and General Secretary Tino San Gil, as well as the support of all GFA Executives, staff, local business sponsors, families of the team members and staff, and the community.

“Guam is getting increasingly stronger with every international football match we play and the world is taking notice. The team will go into every match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers competing to win,” White added.

Once the six winners of the pre-qualifying stage are determined, the official qualifier draw will be held in April. The qualifier draw will pool Asia’s top 34 countries with the six pre-qualifier entries into eight groups of five teams. Guam is guaranteed to play eight home and away matches beginning in June. This year will mark the first-ever time Guam will play host to a FIFA World Cup qualifier match, Lai said.

Aside from moving closer to entry into the FIFA World Cup, success in the second round of qualifiers will afford the top countries a spot in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, according to the AFC correspondence.

White is currently meeting with Matao team members abroad and their respective club coaches to gain their commitment to play in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers for Guam. Additionally, White is evaluating new players with Guam roots in the U.S. mainland who have expressed an interest in playing for the Matao.

 

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