Mongolia Finishes 6th in 2023 EAFF U15 Championship
Image property of the EAFF
Since 1 September the Mongolian boy's under-15 team has been in Qingdao, China for the East Asian Football Federation U15 Championship. This was the second edition of this iteration of the tournament and the first since 2018.
Mongolia's campaign began with a dream start as the baby Blue Wolves defeated the Northern Mariana Islands 4 to 0. Naranbold Nandin-Erdene opened the scoring within a minute of the first whistle. Then Tuvshinbayr Turbat and Khuslen Otgonkhuyag both scored before the clock hit twenty minutes. After NMI settled into the match, their defense tightened and Mongolia could only add one more before the end the match, thanks to an 87th-minute strike by Nergui Kishigjargal. In 2018, Mongolia limped to a 0-0 draw with the same opponent.
Mongolia's next two matches were always going to be a challenge and, unfortunately, the difference between finishing in the top two or crashing out of the Group Stage. Despite facing the much larger footballing nations of South Korea and China, Mongolia held the opposition to a pair of respectable 0-6 defeats. To put the results into perspective, South Korea and China both thumped the Northern Mariana Islands by final scores of 23-0 in the tournament.
Mongolia's starting XI versus Hong Kong. Image property of the EAFF
Matchday 4 pitted Mongolia vs. Macau in both sides' final encounter of the Group Stage. The match saw Mongolia return to the dominant form seen in the opening match, securing a 5-0 win. Again, Mongolia opened the scoring early with Bolorbold Chinguun finding the back of the net in the 18th minute for his first of the competition. He struck again in the 25th minute with Khuslen Otgonkhuyag sandwiching in a goal in minute twenty. In the second half, Baasanjav Batmend of Khoromkhon FC and Baasandorj Odbayar scored in the 47th and 80th minute respectively to round out the scoring.
By finishing third in Group A, behind China and South Korea, Mongolia failed to advance to the knockout stages. However, the team's campaign was not over.
Today Mongolia battled Hong Kong, 3rd-place team from Group B, to determine overall fifth and sixth place finishers. After going down 3-0 by the 51st minute, Mongolia battled back. Despite two late goals, the Blue Wolves could not draw level and finished the tournament in sixth place in the nine-team field.
North Korea did not enter the competition.
Naranbayar Nandin-Erdene bagged his second of the tournament while new Mongolian wunderkind and Sparta Prague player Bolorbold Chinguun scored his third goal in four matches.
After decades of disappointing results as one the weakest teams in the EAFF, Mongolia is solidifying itself as mid-level performer in the regional confederation. It is clear that progress is happening in the Steppes. With several new top prospects coming through the system, the future seems bright for Mongolian football.