Muavesi: We can’t wait to play

Tonga get their campaign underway at 1:00pm on Thursday playing Vanuatu at Loto-Tonga Centre in ’Atele, where the hosts have been training together regularly over the past month.
“My players can’t wait to play,” says Muavesi.
“They know that the fans will be behind them and that’s what is really motivating them.”
The Fijian-born coach, who works full-time in grassroots for Tonga Football Association (TFA) managing the ‘Just Play’ programme, says it is good to see free entry for the games.
“TFA are trying to build the profile of the game in this rugby playing nation and that’s why they put their hand up to host this tournament.”
“With the games being free, we hope to see a lot of people come out to support the team.”
Tonga have a real chance of winning the Stage 1 Qualifier, but may be wary of the fact they have never beaten Papua New Guinea in a competitive senior international.
Six of the squad will have memories of their heartbreaking loss to Papua New Guinea during 2008 qualifying, going down 3-1 in extra-time of the South Pacific Games final to miss out on a chance to meet New Zealand in the Stage 2 play-off.
Lupe Likiliki, Sofia Filo, Laite Manu, Penateti Feke, Sela Va’Enuku and Sala Veamatahau are the players who survive from that tournament and form a core of experienced players in this year’s squad.
Not always known for their technical skills, Tonga will look to outmuscle opponents and score quickly on the break through sisters Piuingi and Wengi Feke and other speedsters in the squad.
“I think our strength will be a key weapon,” says Muavesi.
“The Melanesian teams like Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea are skillful and lighter so we have to take a physical approach to win against them.”
Also central to Tonga’s success could be Mele ‘Lupe’ Likiliki, their talented goalkeeper who has won many accolades over the years including a nomination for the OFC Women’s Player of the Year Award in 2008.
It is rumoured this may be Likiliki’s final tournament playing for her country and no doubt the 28-year-old will want to finish her career on a high.
Tonga kick off their tournament at 1:00pm on Thursday against Vanuatu before a mouth-watering clash against Papua New Guinea on Saturday.
For the match schedule click here
For the team lists click here

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