Decisive day looms in Tonga

On the back of a hard fought 1-1 draw with Cook Islands, the hosts will be looking to grab all three points on offer when they face American Samoa at the Loto-Tonga Soka Centre in Nuku’alofa.
In Friday’s other encounter Samoa will be aiming for their second win in as many games to take a big step towards progression to September’s 2016 OFC U-20 Championship in Vanuatu, that will double as the next stage of World Cup qualification.
Tonga will wear the favourites tag against a young American Samoan side which was comprehensively outplayed in their opening 5-0 defeat to Samoa.
Tevita Moala’s men showed plenty of attacking potential in their opener, but the home fans will be hoping for a better return in the final third, especially since goal difference could prove crucial in the final analyses.
However the hosts are aware that they will be up against a vastly different American Samoan side which missed a number of crucial players in their opening loss to Samoa.
The absence of playmaker and experienced captain Hemaloto Polovili, who will serve a one match suspension following his red card against Cook Islands, is also a concern for Moala.
The Tongan coach insists his side will not underestimate their opponent.
“We are not reading anything into the previous results and we will not take this match lightly,’ says Moala.
“We simply must win to stay on track for the next stage, so we will treat it like a final,”
“The outcome of this match could go a long way in determining our fate, this is one of the most important games we have ever played.”
American Samoa faced some unexpected challenges that delayed their arrival in Tonga and coach Sione Mau believes that partly explains his side’s sluggish start to the tournament.
“We arrived in Tonga just a day before the start of the competition and without some of our players.
“That was always going to make it difficult for us in the first match,” says Mau.
“I have no doubt we will improve and be more competitive in our second game.”
Samoa’s comprehensive first up win may have given them some breathing space after the opening day, but Paul Ualesi’s charges know that they have plenty of work ahead.
The Samoans will need to stay focused for the entire 90 minutes against a Cook Islands side that showed a lot of fighting spirit and belief during their hard fought opener with Tonga.
Despite a deflating penalty miss and falling a goal behind, Tuka Tisam’s men have proved their mental strength by recovering to salvage a draw with the hosts.
Following their confidence boosting performance, Cook Islands will also have the added motivation knowing that a defeat to Samoa will end their qualification hopes.
Tisam knows it’s a must win game for his side.
“No question, it’s a do-or-die match for us but we are looking forward to it,” says the Cook Islands coach.
“The feeling in the camp is pretty good, I think this will be an even contest and an entertaining game.
“They are a quality side if you give them space and time on the ball and they are also clinical in front of goal, you could see that against American Samoa.”
Although Samoa faced an understrength opposition in their opening match, it would be foolish to dismiss the manner of their victory.
Ualesi’s men possess quality across the park and they will be riding high on confidence.
“We had a good performance against American Samoa and I’m pleased we scored five goals because it could come down to goal difference,” says the Samoan coach.
“Cook Islands are good side, very well organised and motivated.
“But our aim is to qualify for the next stage and we are ready for them.”
Extra Information
Tonga vs. American Samoa
Loto-Tonga Soka Centre
Nuku’alofa, Tonga
Friday 24 June, 2016
Kick-off: 12pm
TGAvASA U20Prelim
Referee: Salesh Chand (FIJ)
Assistant Referee 1: Phul Singh (FIJ)
Assistant Referee 2: Ujwaal MUDLIAR (FIJ)
Fourth Official: Joel Hopkken (VAN)
Tonga
The players:
Despite the absence of captain Hemaloto Polovili, the Tongans will be buoyed by the impressive attacking form of Talatala Po’oi, who tested the Cook Islands keeper on a number of occasion before grabbing a vital goal for his side. Goalkeeper Mahe Malafu also showed plenty of quality in the opening game including a penalty save.
The vital statistics: Tonga created a lot of opportunities to score including five quality attempts on target and two shots that hit the crossbar. Coach Tevita Moala will be hoping for more accuracy in the final third.
Coach quote: “Against Cook Islands the finishing was a big problem and we have been working very hard to correct that. We simply can’t afford to miss so many clear cut chances.”
Squad list: 1. Mahe MALAFU (GK), 2. Kilifi VEA, 3. Sione TUIFANGALOKA, 4. Sione KITE, 5. Tevita VAKATAPU, 6. Aisea MULI, 7. Soakai VEA, 8. Sateki MATAKAIONGO, 9. Vai LUTU, 10. Hemaloto POLOVILI, 11. Anthony LIKILIKI, 12, Fisi’ihoi PALU, 13. Timeth BOGIDUA 14. Hola MALAFU, 15. Talatala PO’OI, 16. Lachman ATOA, 17. Etilei TUIONO, 18. Folauhola MESUI, 19. Tevita TUKIMAKA, 20. Semisi OTUKOLO
Coach: Tevita MOALA (TGA)
American Samoa
The players:
Striker Steven Fiso looked the most likely to get on the scoresheet against Samoa by getting into good positions and forcing two good saves from Faalavelave Matagi. His teammates will need get him more involved against the hosts.
The vital statistics: American Samoa only had 14 available players in their opening match and both 14-year-old Gabriel Taumua and his 13-year-old midfield partner Masila Siua were called on to shoulder some of the responsibilities. With a number of key players joining the squad for the match against Tonga, coach Sione Mau will have more options and experience at his disposal.
Coach quote: “Despite the defeat the mood remains positive in the camp. We had a tough start but we are confident we will improve. We know it will be tough. We saw Tonga and they are a good side but I think we will be up to the challenge.”
Squad list: 1. Kinilau POULI (GK), Sione MOEAKI, 3. Willie MALELE, 4. Frank HUNT, 5. Paul COLLINS, 6. Michael SETTLE, 7. Tauamo FE’A, 8. Joe PURCELL, 9. Steven FISO, 10. Ferrin MANULELEUA, 11. Gabriel TAUMUA, 12. Tor-Lawrence MANA’O, 13. Takai POULI, 14. Joseph CHOI, 15. Tala AUVAA, 16. Simi MOAETEAU, 17. Aliva NAUTU, 18. Masila SIUA, 23. Hinckley TUFA (GK)
Coach: Sione MAU (TGA)
Samoa vs. Cook Islands
Loto-Tonga Soka Centre
Nuku’alofa, Tonga
Friday, 24 June, 2016
Kick-off: 3pm
SAMvCOK U20Prelim
Referee: Campbell-Kirk WAUGH (NZL)
Assistant Referee 1: Isaac TREVIS (NZL)
Assistant Referee 2: Jeffery SOLODIA (SOL)
Fourth Official: Nelson SOGO (SOL)
Samoa
The players:
Midfielder Samuel Malo was a constant threat against American Samoa with his powerful runs on the right flank. The impressive 17-year-old produced a goal and an assist to underline his importance. Goalkeeper captain Faalavelave Matagi had a relatively quiet day between the posts but his leadership qualities were on display as he marshalled his side from the back.
The vital statistics: Samoa’s attacking prowess was on full display against American Samoa with four different goalscorers in their 5-0 win.
Coach quote: “We can’t afford to make silly mistakes against teams like the Cook Islands because they can hurt us. They will be tough and well organised with everything to play for, just like us.”
Squad list: 1. Faalavelave MATAGI (GK), 2. Peter HUNT, 3. Timothy HUNT, 4.Tauati TANOAI, 5. Maiseli MATAMU, 6. Xavier TANIELU, 7. Christopher GALE, 8. Vaa TAUALAI, 9. Samuel MALO, 10. Frank MARINER, 11. Brian SIMI, 12, Pago TUNUPOPO, 13. Esekielu LAUSSEN, 14. Joseph SELEMAIA, 15. Vaatausili VAA, 16. Timote FONI, 17. Slade OMERI, 18. Fagupo TELETOLIO, 19. Faafouina FELISE, 20. Eteuati TOMASI (
GK)
Coach: Paul UALESI (SAM)
Cook Islands
The players:
Dwayne Tiputoa was impressive in midfield and he combined well with his cousin Conroy Tiputoa, who scored his side’s equaliser against Tonga with a crisp finish.
The vital statistics: Cook Islands were awarded the only penalty on the opening day but they couldn’t convert as Thane Bale’s attempt was kept out by Tongan keeper Mahe Malafu. With another close contest on the cards against Samoa, Tuka Tisam’s men can’t afford to waste their best chances.
Coach quote: “It’s only our third game together as a team but I can see that we are getting better. The boys are coming together really well and there is a lot of togetherness in this team.”
Squad list: 1. Keegan INIA (GK), 2. Jarves APERAU, 3. George ELLIS, 4. Sunai JOSEPH, 5. Michael WOOD, 6. William NAPA, 7. Samuel MAOATE-COX, 8. Cahjun WILLIS, 9. Maro BONSU-MARO, 11. Thane BEAL, 12. Melbourne MATAKINO, 13. Orin RUAINE-PRATTLEY, 14. Conroy TIPUTOA, 15. Bruce BIEN, 16. Kimiora SAMUELA, 17. Kristian YOUNG, 18. Dwayne TIPUTO
Coach: Tuka TISAM (COK)


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