Official: Mongolia to Play First UEFA Opponent
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With a FIFA match window next month, it seemed inevitable that Mongolia would announce at least one upcoming friendly. Today the Mongolian Football Federation ended the suspense by announcing a historic opponent...and a daunting challenge.
Mongolia will travel to the Republic of Georgia for a match on the 25th of March. This will be the nation's first trip to Europe and its first match against an UEFA member at any level. Georgia currently sits at #78 in the FIFA World Rankings while Mongolia hover over one hundred places lower at #182 of FIFA’s 211 member associations.
The match will be Mongolia's second-ever against a non-Asian opponent. In 2018 the team hosted Mauritius of the Confederation of African Football (CAF). The contest ended in a 0-2 defeat. Within the last few years, a friendly was reportedly planned against Estonia, another UEFA member, but it never materialized.
Georgia, whose federation has yet to confirm the fixture, will be using the match as a tune-up for UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying. They will be expecting the match to build confidence and fluidity in the offense. The Caucasus nation begins its qualifying campaign three days later, hosting Norway.
Mongolia will likely use the match to solidify the team's core while giving opportunities to several new faces. This will be Mongolia's first official match since the team's 2-0 victory over Yemen in Asian Cup qualification in June 2022. Head coach Ichiro Otsuka will look for a marked improvement over the disappointing display his side showed in the Toyama International Cup in Japan in November. In the tournament, the Blue Wolves managed a 1-0 victory over a high school team before back-to-back low-scoring draws against a club from the country's eighth tier and a J3 League club's under-18 side.
Mongolia’s only other currently-scheduled fixtures are a pair of fixtures to open 2026 World Cup qualification in October 2023.
The matchup presents a rare opportunity for Mongolian players; to be observed by scouts and staff from the highest levels. Ganbold Ganbayar will surely make the short trip from Slovakia where he currently plays. Oyunbold Oyuntuya who is currently with Sham Shui Po in Hong Kong should also make the trip. All other players should see the match as an opportunity to be plucked from the domestic league.
What is the team's goal for the match? It may be literally that....to score a goal. While the team faces an uphill battle, small victories such as scoring a goal would be real progress. Will Naranbold Nyam-Osor finally take the scoring record? Will Ganbold Ganbayar score his third goal in two matches? Or will another storyline unfold? We will know soon enough.