2015 Friendly Game – Hong Kong vs Guam
It’s international weekend so there are games taking place all around the world: 2016 European Championship qualifiers, 2018 World Cup qualifiers from the CONCACAF region and a host of friendlies for teams in preparation for those tournaments. The second round of the Asian qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup start in June and so two of the region’s teams met in a warm-up match in Hong Kong this weekend with Guam playing the hosts.
Neither of these sides are expected to go far in the qualification round – remember, only the eight group winners and best four runners-up make it to the third round but the fact that they are taking part in this stage shows that they have made great progress in recent times. Hong Kong are ranked 156 in the FIFA rankings, while Guam are at number 161 or to put it another, more localised, way Hong Kong are the 29th ranked side in Asia with Guam at 33 – that’s just above Bangladesh. Now, Guam, an island nation of about 200.000 inhabitants, have made great strides in recent times; winning their first ever match against a FIFA member in 2009 ( it was Mongolia: 1-0) and slowly rising up the rankings within the Asian section. Indeed, they avoided having to play in the first round knock-out stages thanks to this improvement and they look forward to the draw for the second round next month.
Hong Kong will also be in the draw and though they are, on paper at least, stronger than Guam they will not trouble the top teams in whatever group they find themselves in. The city has a population of over 7 million people with many of them big fans of the Premier League and La Liga, so you would expect Hong Kong to be a little stronger in the region but instead they find themselves behind Myanmar, Syria and The Maldives in the FIFA rankings.
On a beautiful sunny day at the Mon Kok Stadium, a few thousand fans saw the home side emerge victorious 1-0 – a win that will boost their FIFA ranking. It was a game in which the hosts should have scored more in the first half as their passing and movement was just too quick for the team from Guam. In the second half Hong Kong sat back and soaked up the pressure in the hope of hitting the visitors on the counter attack and though they did not increase their lead they ran out worthy winners.
Next stop for both sides will be the draw for the second round of the Asian qualifiers taking place in Malaysia in April.
a host of: A collection of; a lot of
a warm-up match: A friendly
runners-up: Team finishing in second place
have made great strides: made great progress
on paper at least: The team has better players and should win
emerge victorious: Win, come out on top
soaked up the pressure: Defended deeply and in numbers
they ran out worthy winners: They deserved to win
- Wikipedia’s page on the Asian World Cup qualifiers
- A BBC report on Guam’s football team
- The FIFA rankings