Following their week in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga will return home wondering what might have been following two matches which could have potentially ended quite differently.
For the side coached by former American Samoa U-20 international Fred Maiava there are a lot of positives to take from this competition, and improving over the course of the three games is one of them.
Having already shown significant development in their approach and execution to the game between matches one and two, American Samoa have an opportunity to go one step further and claim three points on the final day of action.
Maiava says the side need to once again consider their options when they take on Tonga, with the physical nature of their opponent’s game certain to cause them trouble.
However with the presence of Steven Filo. Takai Pouli and Gabriel Taumua American Samoa have some weapons of their own. Add to that skill-set the talents of Hawaii-based Joe Purcell and American Samoa could throw a spanner in Tonga’s plans to claim the win for themselves.
Tonga showed guts and determination against Samoa in their second match of the competition, continuing to play their game even after conceding in just the third minute.
High pressing and some outstanding defending led by captain Ofa Kite helped the Tongans keep themselves within grasp of Samoa and they were rewarded for that effort with the equaliser.
Still, coach Timote Moleni wasn’t particularly pleased with the result believing his charges can do much better and certainly had the ability to win that encounter. Now out of the running for that final berth in Tonga, the side will be out to prove themselves a player on the international scene.
Tonga have looked organised and have taken great strides to develop a passing game that isn’t reliant on kick and chase. They create chances for themselves and where they are lacking at present is that final finishing touch.
Moleni says American Samoa are a strong side.
“I think against Cook Islands something went wrong for them because they are a very strong team.”
The final match of the day, and the tournament, has current leaders Cook Islands taking on the hosts in what will be a high stakes encounter.
With two wins so far, Cook Islands are keen to make it a clean three from three when they take on Samoa. While at times they have looked a well-organised unit, coach Richard Anderson says the side are still not at their best.
There’s also a sense of history repeating itself for Anderson with the Cook Islands’ senior team having been beaten out by Samoa at a similar stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ – when he was assistant coach.
“My immediate thoughts are this is a little bit of déjà vu because I’ve been here before with the men’s team. We didn’t deal with the pressure in the last game there very well.
“Going into this last game we believe we have seen enough of Samoa to put in a coherent game plan. They will be very tough, they showed against American Samoa if you give them chances they will put them away.”
They have one last chance to prove themselves tomorrow and they will need to be at the top of their game to defeat a determined Samoa.
The hosts know what was within their grasp against Tonga and will be unwilling to make the same mistakes against Cook Islands. To have their opponent draw even after leading for such a large portion of the match was hugely disappointing for coach Desmond Faaiuaso and he will expect much more from his side come their final match.
“We will think about what happened against Tonga and we’ll be looking at the way to win against Cook Islands.
“They’re a really good team but we are trying our best in this last game because we have a good chance of winning this tournament.”
American Samoa vs. Tonga
J.S. Blatter Football Complex
Friday 8 July
Referee: Robinson BANGA (VAN)
Assistant Referee 1: Mahit CHILIA (VAN)
Assistant Referee 2: Noah KUSUNAN (PNG)
Fourth Official: Amos ANIO (PNG)
Vital Statistics: Takai Pouli’s goal against Samoa is American Samoa’s first in 480 minutes of football at U-17 level. Their last goal came against Tonga in 2013.
The Players: The more experienced members of the squad are those who have shone so far. Gabriel Taumua made a much greater contribution at the centre of defence while moving Joe Purcell from a wide position to central midfield was an inspired decision.
Coach Quote: “We have to assess our game to prepare for Tonga. They’re physical players and they’re organised.”
American Samoa: 1. John UGAITAFA (GK), 2. Joseph CHOI, 3. Tala AUVA’A, 4. Walter PATI, 5. Mahonri LOTULELEI, 6. Bryman LEVAULA, 7. Milo TIATIA, 8. Chris FA’AMOANA, 9. Joe PURCELL, 10. Steven FISO, 11. Gabriel TAUMUA, 12. Takai POULI, 13. Michael SETTLE, 14. Masila SIUA, 15. Roy LEDOUX, 16. Jerome PALEPUA, 17. Vaha TUA, 18. Eliott LELEI, 19. Misipele MUSU, 23. Pesa TAUGAVAU (GK)
Coach: Frederick MAIAVA (ASA)
Vital Statistics: Tonga beat American Samoa 2-0 in 2015, their only victory in their group during the competition in Pago Pago.
The Players: Captain Ofa Kite is an imposing member of the centre of defence and plays the sweeper role incredibly well.
Coach Quote: “Most of the emphasis with the boys is not to be nervous because that’s what I’ve seen in both games. Sometimes they’re trying to rush but they need to focus and be confident to make a call and follow it.”
Tonga: 1. Alifaleti LIKIO (GK), 2. Ofa KITE, 3. Sione VAENUKU, 4. Petueli TOKOTAHA, 5. Falanisesi MAUSIA, 6. Tevita KAU, 7. Tevita SILI, 8. Kalakaua FAIVAILO, 9. Tuia FALEPAPALANGI, 10. Viliami TUKIA, 11. Fonua TALIAULI, 12. William SENITULI, 13. Opesi TUIFANGALOKA, 14. Viliami KAITAPU, 15. William NAU, 16. Pesamino TOMASI, 17. Sitaleki FISI, 18. Ongolea FILO, 19. Alone FAKAVAI, 20. Tevita KAILEA (GK)
Coach: Timote MOLENI (TGA)
Cook Islands vs. Samoa
J.S. Blatter Football Complex
Friday 8 July
Referee: Averii JACQUES (TAH)
Assistant Referee 1: Gareth SHEEHAN (NZL)
Assistant Referee 2: Bernard MUTUKERA (SOL)
Fourth Official: Mederic LACOUR (NCL)
Vital Statistics: In their last two matches against Samoa at this level Cook Islands have won one and lost the other.
The Players: Geosah George and Kimiora Ngametua are proving wily young players who can cause grief to their opponents nipping between defenders. Sean Iona is a hard-working defender with a never-give-up attitude.
Coach Quote: “Samoa have a formidable midfield duo that we will have to learn to get to grips with. I’m hopeful we can get the outcome we want.”
Cook Islands: 1. Manaariki PIERRE (GK), 2. Sean IONA, 3. Avi ENOKA, 4. William NAPA, 5. Grafton POTORU, 6. Andrew HERMAN, 7. Geosah GEORGE, 8. Parau ELLIS, 9. Toru MATEARIKI, 10. Conroy TIPUTOA, 11. Lee HARMON, 12. Teokotai TUPUNA, 13. Willynn KARIKA, 14. Teporoa HENRY, 15. Kimiora NGAMETUA, 16. Roimata KARIKA, 17. Daryl AREAI, 20. Finlay MUNRO (GK)
Coach: Richard ANDERSON (ENG)
Vital Statistics: Samoa earned a comprehensive victory over Cook Islands in 2015 winning the encounter 5-1.
The Players: Captain Willie Sauiluma continues to lead by example with his sheer presence on the field. He is both defender and attacker in one and his powerful runs at opponents are a thrill to witness.
Coach Quote: “I know our home crowd was quite disappointed too, but hopefully they will come out and support our team for the last game.”
Samoa: 1. Eti FATU (GK), Kitiona NAUER, 3. Joseph MAMEA-HIND, 4. Stanley MAMEA, 5. Stanley SELEMAIA, 6. Osa SAVELIO, 7. Willie SAUILUMA, 8. Jackson NAUTU, 9. Lotial MANO, 10. Jeneum KEPU, 11
. Dilo TUMUA, 12. Julius DUFFY, 13. Eichard EPA, 14. Falaniko NANUMEA, 15. Paul FELISE, 16. Jefferson FAAMATAU, 17. Jeffrey LEIATAUA, 18. Uilisone GALU, 22. AJ AMOSA (GK), 23. Talita HAFOKA (GK)
Coach: Desmond FAAIUASO (SAM)