Stakes high on day two

First up it’s American Samoa taking on Cook Islands at 3:00pm before Samoa clash with Tonga at 5:30pm (local time). Here’s a look at the action that’s in store.
American Samoa vs. Cook Islands
American Samoa will be hoping for double celebrations with a win on Thanksgiving Day to follow up their historic victory against Tonga on day one. In just three weeks, Thomas Rongen has done an outstanding job to make them look a different team from the one competing at the Pacific Games in September when they lost five games without scoring a single goal. Rawlston Masania’i led the team defensively on Tuesday with Nicky Salapu also looking confident in goal. Showing physicality up front was Ramin Ott and Shalom Luani, who has also made a name for himself in Pago Pago as a talented American football player.
With just one rest day between games, Cook Islands will have to bounce back quickly after a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Samoa in their opening match. The result has seriously hurt their chances of winning the tournament but Shane Rufer’s side will need to stay focused against American Samoa and Tonga while hoping the hosts slip up along the way. They came off second best in the physical stakes against Samoa and are nursing at least two injuries with John Quijano and Twin Tiro confirmed as non-starters. Rufer wants to see his side play a better possession game while also matching up physically.
In their own words
“We still have two good teams to play in Samoa and Cook Islands, both of whom we respect tremendously. I have only been working with the players for three weeks which is not a long time to put a team together but long enough to make a change. I hope that we can improve our standings in the FIFA rankings and get into the hundreds. We are 204 at the moment and the win will have helped.” – Thomas Rongen, American Samoa coach
“Everyone has come into this tournament with similar goals and once you win one game then you try and make that a habit. For us on the other hand, we lost yesterday so we don’t want to make that a habit. We need to keep the ball more. Our possession game against Samoa was poor, probably because they intimidated us physically in the first half.” – Shane Rufer, Cook Islands coach

American Samoa [ASA] vs. Cook Islands [COK]
Thursday 24 November
J.S. Blatter Stadium
Apia, Samoa
Local kick-off: 3:00pm
Referee:
Bruce GEORGE [VAN]
Assistant referee 1: Jackson NAMO [SOL]
Assistant referee 2: Michael JOSEPH [VAN]
Fourth official: Peter O’LEARY [NZL]
Samoa vs. Tonga
If Tonga are hoping to shake off their unexpected loss to minnows American Samoa, they will have to be at their best against a buoyant Samoa side. The two teams have met three times in previous FIFA World Cup qualifiers with Tonga winning 1-0 in the 1998 and 2002 preliminaries before Samoa won 2-1 four years ago in Apia. Chris Williams felt his side failed to take their chances on Tuesday so will be hoping for some more clinical finishing. Unaloto Feao appears to be the key man, having scored on day one as well as in their previous encounter with Samoa.
The hosts will be on a high after their last minute win against the Cook Islands, who had largely been tipped to be their biggest threat at this tournament. Tunoa Lui has options on attack with Luki Gosche showing his composure in front of goal to pick up a brace on day one, before being replaced by older brother To’o who also impressed. Local star Desmond Fa’aiuaso looked a class above against the Cook Islands while Kiwi import Jared Curtis was solid playing in an unfamiliar central midfield role. With no injuries, Lui may have a selection headache after some strong performances off the bench.
In their own words
“It’s important for us not to think about the game yesterday and to focus on Tonga, who are going to be tough. I think it’s also about keep our cool. Discipline was a problem for us initially with players coming from so many different clubs and villages but it is something we’ve worked hard on since going into camp.” – Tunoa Lui, Samoa coach
“American Samoa deserved to win, we had enough chances to equalise and didn’t take them. There are still two games to go and we will just have to re-gather and see how we go.” – Chris Williams, Tonga coach

Samoa [SAM] vs Tonga [TGA]
Thursday 24 November
J.S. Blatter Stadium
Apia, Samoa
Local kick-off: 5:30pm
Referee:
Andrew ACHARI [FIJ]
Assistant referee 1: David CHARLES [PNG]
Assistant referee 2: Didier HMUZO [NCL]
Fourth official: Andrew ACHARI [FIJ]


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