OFC: Vanuatu technical director and national coach, Carlos Buzzetti, says the pressure is on Fiji and not his team ahead of its crucial first up clash against the South Pacific Games hosts at Suva’s National Stadium next Monday, 30 June.

In an interview with the OFC Website newswire, the Uruguayan-born former Australian assistant admitted his disappointment at being handed a tough draw which sees them playing first Fiji then the Solomon Islands the following day. But he refuses to believe the pressure will be solely on Vanuatu.

“Certainly the first game will be hard, but we do not have any pressure. Fiji on the other hand will be under a lot of pressure,” said Buzzetti.

“It will be a hard game and hopefully a skilful game for the people to enjoy.”

Buzzetti believes playing at home and with public pressure to perform after last year’s below par results will place added pressure on Fiji, who lost to Vanuatu in the last meeting of the two teams at the 2002 OFC Nations Cup. On that occasion in Auckland, Vanuatu won 1-0 but could have won by more.

But in Fiji’s advantage is the preparation they have had compared to Vanuatu. Fiji has just come off a physical series against the visiting Victoria State team from Australia. Vanuatu on the other hand have only played meaningless warm up games against local clubs winning them all easily.

Fiji coach Tony Buesnel also has key player Esala Masi fully fit as well as his other potent strike weapon, Veresa Toma. Masi has been named Fiji’s captain. Fiji’s worries lie in its defence where Victoria were able to expose during the three matches winning twice and drawing the last match.

Vanuatu returns much of its squad from 2002 and is also buoyed by the return of Seimata Chilia from Australia to orchestrate the plays from central midfield. Vanuatu is sound all-round and is defensively adept. Where they may need to improve is up front where they need to score more goals. Half the squad will form Vanuatu’s Olympic squad for next year’s Oceania qualifiers.

Photo: Fiji star Esala Masi on the attack in the upset 0-1 loss to Vanuatu at the 2002 OFC Nations Cup. The Fijian captain will be out for revenge when the two teams meet again in Suva on 30 June. courtesy FFA website.