HONIARA, 8 Oct: A small crowd was at the Henderson’s Honiara International airport last night to see the arrival of the Qantas Socceroo.
The Air Vanuatu flight from Brisbane was supposed to have arrived just before 10pm (local time) the flight was delayed.
Missing from the team that arrived were Australia’s top striker Harry Kewell and his partner John Aloisi who are both carrying injuries.
Their ommission from the Socceroo lineup came as good news for local soccer supporters who were expecting Australia’s bext to face the Solomon Islands.
Socceroo coach Frank Farina yesdterday confirmed that Kewell and Aloisi will not travel to Honiara for the first match of the two-legged OFC Nations Cup play-off with the Solomon Islands.
Both players have been unable to train with the rest of the Qantas Socceroos squad since arriving in Australia and Farina in consultation with his medical staff this morning, believe they will be better served staying in Sydney and receiving treatment, in order to maximize their chances of playing in Sydney next Tuesday.
“Both John and Harry will not travel to Honiara,” Farina said from Brisbane.
“If we have got any hope of getting them on the park for Tuesday, it’s just no use in them traveling for 3 and a half hours, spending 36 hours there and then another 3 and a half hours back to Australia. We are sending them directly to Sydney where we’ll organize treatment for them there with Bill Collins, who has been with us before as a physio.
“Both were keen to go, but at the end of the day a decision had to be made, I have made it and we have to move on.”
While Kewell’s groin injury has been a problem for some time and he has managed to play around it, Aloisi’s calf injury was of a bigger concern and the extent of the injury was only realized on the flight back to Australia.
“John got a knock on the weekend on his calf and he arrived here on Tuesday night and his actual calf was the size of his quad. I don’t know what happened, but it was obviously due to the trip and he has been unable to train. It has gone down a little bit today, but not that much and if we had to get on a plane again now and travel, it would have been bad from our point of view to even try and he wouldn’t have got on the park on Saturday and obviously would not have got on the park on Tuesday.”
Asked what chance he thought they had of playing on Tuesday, Farina was cautious by optimistic they would be right.
“I’m not a doctor and I’m not a physio, but from all reports they have got a very, very good chance.”
The loss of Kewell and Aloisi for the trip to Honiara has robbed Farina of two players that were likely to lead the attack, although he believes he has got the backup to cover for them.
“We have still got plenty of options there, the likes of Ante Milicic, we’ve got Archie Thompson, we’ve got Brett Emerton, Ahmad Elrich, Mile Sterjovski and Max Vieri, so we are not short on players to come in. Obviously the decision will be made once we arrive in Honiara tomorrow. We’ll have a training session tomorrow, but in terms of up front I think we’ve got plenty of options there.”
With so many players dropping out initially and now with Aloisi and Kewell for the first game, Farina was asked if he was having bad feelings about this game.
“Not really,” he answered. “I am still positive and confident in the players we have here and that are available and fit and are very keen to do well. My biggest concern at the moment is obviously the (weather) conditions we will face once we get into Honiara.”
In terms of some of the other logistical problems they might face in the Solomons, Farina said they were ready.
“We had Ange Postecoglou go over there whilst we were at the Olympic Games and did some reconnaissance for both the hotels, the pitch, the dressing rooms. As you say they are not up to some of the stadiums we have in Australia, but we are fully prepared and ready and know what we are going into. We’ve done our homework there and I won’t be any surprises.”
The first leg match is on Saturday 9th October in Honiara, with kick-off at 2.00pm (Australian Eastern Standard Time). The Oceania football website will be doing a Live Match Update of the game from 2.00pm, with full updates every ten minutes.
Courtesy of Francis Pituvaka, Media Officer Solomon Islands Football Federation