EXCLUSIVE: Guam coach Gary White confident after March tests

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Gary White

Ahead of the June start of World Cup qualifying, coach sees the pieces of his team coming together after two solid performances in last month’s friendlies.

The FIFA 167th-ranked side fell 1-0 to Hong Kong in a match which featured six players making their senior debuts.

Days later at Jalan Besar Stadium, they staged a bold 2-2 draw against Singapore which White feels should have been Guam’s for the taking.

“We silenced a lot of their fans because we took the game to Singapore,” the coach told Football Channel Asia. “We had three opportunities in the first 15 minutes to score, and that continued as the game went on.”

After Shawn Nicklaw’s opener sent the visitors into half time with a shock 1-0 lead, Singapore equalised through Faris Ramli’s header in the 53rd minute.

“They came out in the second half with their fans behind them and put some pressure on us,” White reflected, “and as the game went on we lacked concentration and allowed them to equalise.”

The visitors took the lead again through Jason Cunliffe’s stunning half-volley from distance, but Singapore salvaged a draw via Baihakki Khaizan’s 80th-minute goal.

“For a football fan it was a fantastic spectacle,” White said.

“I think what we’ve done with this result is stepped into a new level of international football for Guam.”

Overall, the 40-year-old coach is positive about the camp’s results as the tiny island nation prepares to participate in their first World Cup qualifying group stage.

“It was a good environment for me to look at players and see how they could adapt to our playing style,” he elaborated. “We used these games to try new formations, and hopefully the players have a broader view of our tactics. We’ll need flexibility in our locker room in this next set of games.”

The FA Pro License holder, who has been invited to take part in the Japan Football Association’s S-Class License program beginning in May, is keenly aware of the threats faced by Asia’s top teams in the coming group stage.

“India were very impressive and I give credit for Taiwan to come back and get through,” White said of the results of the playoff round held in March. “They won’t be easy opponents and the gaps are getting closer.

“Southeast Asian teams and South Asian teams are improving. Look at the Azkals (Philippines), Singapore, Thailand, even Myanmar. These types of teams are starting to develop.

“It’s going to be a very competitive environment.”