Guam vow to ‘make a statement’ in World Cup qualifier against Singapore
Guam, the westernmost point and territory of the United States, is more well known for being a honeymoon and diving destination. Its national football team are six places off the bottom out of 207 teams in the Fifa rankings, and above only Sri Lanka in the Asian Football Confederation’s ranking.
But Guam insisted they are not in Singapore for a holiday. Rather, they are here to “make a statement” when they take on the 157th-ranked Lions in the first leg of the first round of World Cup qualifiers at the National Stadium on Thursday before the return leg on Tuesday.
While Singapore are used to being the underdogs, citing their limited talent pool, Guam – known as Matao or The Noblemen – have a population of just 170,000 to pick from. At the pre-match press conference at Oasia Hotel Novena on Wednesday, Guam coach Ross Awa told The Straits Times that they have had to recruit US-based players to boost their squad.
This presents logistical issues as these footballers, who are with lower-tier clubs or university teams, had to travel 15 hours from their Los Angeles base to the Philippines for a one-week training camp to prepare for this two-legged tie, from which the winners will progress to the second round.
But Awa said: “Although our ranking is at 201, that doesn’t reflect the overall team and the players I have for this tournament. We have the team to get the job done. We respect the opposition, but we came here to win.
“The overall environment in our team has been really great. We all are excited, we all are ready, and we are going to make a statement.”
They have done that before, when they took the lead twice before settling for a 2-2 draw at Jalan Besar Stadium the last time these two teams met in an international friendly in 2015.
Under Gary White, Guam were flying then as they also chalked up impressive results in the World Cup qualifiers, beating Turkmenistan and India and holding Oman to a goalless draw at home that year as they climbed as high as 146th in the world rankings.
Poor results and a lack of matches, however, saw them slip to become the second-worst ranked team in Asia.
Bringing a positive result back to Guam could be the catalyst they need. Skipper Jason Cunliffe said: “We don’t have the resources you guys have, so this is just another opportunity for us to grow.
“We are up for it. I scored the second goal against Singapore in 2015, and with the work we’ve been doing, I look forward to scoring another goal.”