Tahiti surprised the football world four years ago by becoming the first nation outside New Zealand – and former OFC member Australia – to win Oceania’s premier international football tournament.
Only a third of that championship winning squad from 2012 is returning to defend their crown, but several players of the new generation come into the tournament with valuable international experience, as members of the U-17 side which narrowly failed to reach the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2015.
Tahiti coach Ludovic Graugnard insists his side won’t be complacent when they face the preliminary qualifying tournament winners.
“Everybody thinks it will be an easy match against Samoa, but not me. So I told all my players to be careful. I don’t want them to think that Samoa are a bad team because they finished last in 2012 and they had to qualify to come here, they are not a bad team. We have confidence in the group, but we have to play with precaution.”
Meanwhile, the Samoans will enter their second OFC Nation Cup campaign with an aim to improve on their debut performance four years ago.
During the 2012 edition of the tournament Samoa suffered three heavy defeats, and their best result was a 5-0 loss to Vanuatu.
Since then they have appointed a new head coach Scott Easthope, who believes the current side will go into the tournament with a goal to prove a point.
“We are coming here to win matches, or at least to pick up some points which we need if we want direct qualification for the Nations Cup in four years. I’m confident they are well prepared and my players have become tactically more aware since the last tournament. The boys all understand their role as well as our model, our game plan and our philosophy.”
Host nation Papua New Guinea will face a tough challenge against New Caledonia on Saturday evening.
Papua New Guinea finished third at last year’s Pacific Games on home soil, which boasted the hopes of the country’s football fans.
With expectations growing the pressure is also increasing on the national side to go out and challenge for the title.
With Denmark’s Flemming Serritslev at the helm, the team is in good hands.
The experienced former Danish international, who based his squad on players from the country’s two champion clubs in the National Soccer League — Hekari United and Lae City Dwellers, says his side must make the most of the home support.
“I think home advantage is very important in a tournament like this. Yes, there is more pressure, but it’s up to us to play well and get the crowd behind us. I have a squad of very committed players and I think we can do well, especially if the fans are cheering us on.”
Meanwhile, New Caledonia will go into the tournament with high expectations.
In 2012 they were just one match away from securing an historic title, before going down 1-0 to francophone rivals Tahiti.
A several key members of that squad have since retired, forcing coach Thierry Sardo to rebuild the national team.
Despite the rebuilding phase, Sardo has included four France-based veterans in his squad with Jean-Phillipe Saiko, Judicael Ixoee, César Zeoula and Georges Gope-Fenepej.
New Caledonia have been a consistent performer at regional level, and following two second-place finishes in a row at the Nations Cup the coach believes the current Les Cagous can go one better this time around.
“I think we are one of the favourites in the competition. Our first target is to make it to the semis, then in a one off game anything can happen. But in international competitions we often see big teams eliminated in the first round se we have to stay focused.”
The OFC would like to acknowledge its partners Telikom PNG, iRENA, and its supporters Dream Inn, Tru Tru Wara and NCDC – The City of Port Moresby.
Tahiti vs. Samoa
Sir John Guise Stadium
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Saturday, 28 May, 2016
Referee: Ravitesh BEHARI (FIJ)
Assistant Referee 1: Ravinesh KUMAR (FIJ)
Assistant Referee 2 Johnny ERICK (SOL)
Fourth Official: George TIME (SOL)
The players: A surviving veteran of the 2012 campaign Alvin Tehau is a hard-working but skillful midfielder, who brings a lot of experience and calmness to the squad. He will be well complemented by 23-year old Teaonui Tehau, the team’s diminutive, fast and technical playmaker.
The vital statistics: Tahiti had a prolific 2012 campaign going forward, scoring 20 goals and averaging four goals per game. They were also solid at the back, conceding only five times in their five games. Coach Graugnard will be hoping for a similar effort from his players, if they want retain their titles,
Coach Quote: “Playing the opening game of a tournament is always tough, you don’t know what to expect. I think it’s not going to be an easy game because Samoa will be a better side than in 2012.”
Squad list: 1. Mikael ROCHE (GK), 2. Taumihau TIATIA, 4. Ricky AITAMAI, 5. Rainui AROITA, 6. Henri CAROINE, 7. Temarii TINORUA, 8. Tauatua LUCAS, 9. Tauhiti KECK, 10. Teaonui TEHAU, 11. Jay WARREN, 12. Mauarii TEHINA, 13. Steevy CHONG HUE, 14. Matatia PAAMA, 15. HEIMANO BOUREBARE, 16. Bruno TETUANUI (GK), 17. Tamatoa TETAUIRA, 18. Tefai FAEHAU, 19. Vincent SIMON, 20, Alvin TEHAU, 21. Fred TISSO, 22. Nicolas VALLAR.
Coach: Ludovic Graugnard (TAH)
The players: The leadership of veteran striker Desmond Faaiuaso will be vital to his side’s fortunes.
The vital statistics: During their Nations Cup debut at the Solomons four years ago, the Samoans have only managed to score once in three matches. Even more worryingly they shipped 24 goals. Scott Easthope’s men will need to shoe a lot of improvement at both ends of the pitch if they want to make an impact.
Coach quote: “My players are as fit as they have ever been, and they are ready to compete with the regions’ best teams. I think we will be competitive if we stay focused for the entire 90 minutes. We just can’t afford lapses of concentration against any of our opponents in PNG.”
Squad list: 1. Faalavelave MATAGI (GK), 2. John HALL, 3. Kaipo TAGALOA, 4. Filipo BURETA, 6. Ryan MARTIN, 7. Andrew MOBBERLEY, 8. Cameron MARTIN, 9. Paulo SCANLAN, 10. Desmond FAAIUASO, 12. Mike SAOFAIGA, 13. Lionel TAYLOR, 14. Keone KAPISI, 15. Luki GOSCHE, 16. Marcus ALIMONTI, 17. Joseph TYRELL, 18. Henry PUPI, 19. Lapa TONI, 20. Silao MALO, 21. Samualu MALO, 22. Charlie TAPELU (GK), 23. Ted SIKOVI (GK)
Coach: Scott EASTHOPE (NZL)
Papua New Guinea vs. New Caledonia
Sir John Guise Stadium
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Saturday, 28 May, 2016
Referee: Matt CONGER (NZL)
Assistant Referee 1: Mark RULE (NZL)
Assistant Referee 2: Tevita MAKASINI (TGA)
Fourth Official: Robinson BANGA (VAN)
Papua New Guinea
The players: Young striker Tommy Semmy had a fantastic OFC Champions League tournament with Hekari United last month, impressing with his speed, physical presence and hunger for goals. He will be well supported by experienced campaigners David Muta and Raymond Gunemba.
The vital statistics: The PNG squad is mainly based on two local National Soccer league sides. There are 12 players from Hekari United and six more from their rival club Lae City Dwellers.
Coach Quote: “I’m not worried that most of my players come from just two clubs. I believe that the good understanding between them will be an advantage.”
Squad list: 1. Ishmael POLE, (GK), 2. Daniel JOE, 3. Valentine NELSON, 4. Alwin KOMOLONG, 5. Felix KOMOLONG, 6. Patrick AISA, 7. Raymond GUNEMBA, 8. Michael FOSTER, 9. Nigel DABINGYABA, 10. Obert BIKA, 11. Wira WAMA, 12. David MUTA, 13. Roland BALA, 14. Emmanuel SIMON, 15. Philip STEVEN, 16. Jeremy YASASA, 17. Jacob SABUA, 18. Tommy SEMMY, 19 Koriak UPAIGA, 20. Ronald WARISAN, (GK)
21. Sammie CAMPBELL, 22. Otto KUSUNAN, 23. Leslie KALAI (GK)
Coach: Flemming Serritslev (DEN)
The players: A key member of New Caledonia’s 2012 OFC Nations Cup squad, Laval starter Cesar Zeoula will bring invaluable experience to the national team. The other three French based players Jean-Phillipe Saiko, Judicael Ixoee, Georges Gope-Fenepej can also make a significant impact.
The vital statistics: Thierry Sardo’s 22-man squad is made of players from 15 different clubs. New Caledonia’s chances will depend greatly on how good the understanding is between them.
Coach Quote: “PNG have a similar style to ours, they have fast strikers, and so do we. We will need to strong and quick to defend our wings. We will play a possession style, patiently building from the back.”
Squad list: 1. Dimitri PETEMOU (GK), 2. Judikael IXOEE, 3. Joseph TCHACKO, 4. Georges BEARUNE, 5. Kevin NEMIA, 6. Cedric SANSOT, 7. Joel WAKANUMUNE, 8. Roy KAYARA, 9. Jean-Philippe SAIKO, 10. Cesar ZEOULA, 11. Bertrand KAI, 12. Loic WAKANUMUNE, 13. Jean-Brice WADRIAKO, 14. Jacki MEINDU, 15. Joerisse CEXOME, 16. Jean-Christ WAJOKA, 17. Georges GOPE-FENEPEJ, 18. Emile BEARUNE, 19.Joseph ATHALE, 20. Thomas SCHMIDT (GK) 21. Jefferson DAHITE, 23. Jelen IXOEE (GK)
Coach: Thierry SARDO (NCL)