Fiji take on a resurgent Solomon Islands in the final match of the competition knowing that a victory will book their tickets for next year’s U-20 showpiece event.
The Ravinesh Kumar-coached team played out a thrilling 2-2 draw with Vanuatu yesterday, a result that maintained a comfortable two point lead over their nearest challengers.
“Solomon Islands will give us a good run on Saturday. They will be a tough side. It’s the last match, the deciding match in the OFC U-20 Championship and we’ll hope for the best on the day,” Kumar says.
Fiji’s opponents can throw a spanner in the works for the hosts but have their own problems ahead of the match.
Assistant coach Gideon Omokirio insists scoring goals remains a difficult area for his team despite their 5-0 victory over American Samoa inspired by an Atkin Kaua hat-trick on Thursday.
The former Solomon Islands international says the team must also lift its tempo in possession if they hope to cause an upset result to reward their loyal supporters who have turned out in good numbers at ANZ Stadium.
“We’re going to work on a bit of a faster game for Saturday and we’re going to work on our finishing as well.
“But overall I would like to thank our supporters and all the Wantok supporters for coming and supporting us even though we have no chance to go through to the finals in New Zealand,” he says.
Vanuatu can spoil the host nation’s party if they can defeat Papua New Guinea convincingly then hope Solomon Islands do them a favour and either beat or draw with Fiji.
Etienne Mermer, Vanuatu coach, says the situation is clear for his team and he’s more than confident they can get their end of the job done against Papua New Guinea.
“We will beat Papua New Guinea but final qualification is out of our hands now. We must win then hope that the Solomon Islands can do us a favour in the final match,” he says.
While that scenario appears straightforward enough, Papua New Guinea coach Wynton Rufer says he faces a difficult challenge in lifting his fatigued group for one more push in one of the biggest matches in the tournament’s 40 year history.
“It will be very tough because you saw last night that the boys are struggling with fitness now, they’re mentally drained. It’s the first time they’ve been away from their homes and they’ve been on the road for almost a month and I think they need their families.
“It’s been a bit overwhelming for them, we’ve asked a lot of them. We got a good result to start with and now we’re finding ourselves struggling and in the last game against Vanuatu who theoretically can win it. Solomons could beat Fiji – it’s going to be a tough one,” Rufer says.
Only one scenario would see the tournament outcome deadlocked in a perfect tie – if Fiji draw 0-0 with the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu down Papua New Guinea 4-0.
That would leave Fiji and Vanuatu both level on wins, draws, goals for and against, goal difference and points.
The two teams are also level based on the head-to-head after their match on Thursday evening.
In that eventuality that this most unlikely of scenarios occurs, the winner of the tournament will be decided by Fair Play criteria set out in the OFC U-20 Championship regulations with the total number of red and yellow cards for each team taken into account.
Currently, both Fiji and Vanuatu have had a total of seven cautions. The team with the least cautions would be deemed champions.
If the two teams are tied following the application of Fair Play criteria, the winner of the tournament will be decided by a drawing of lots.
The drawing of lots, if required, would take place on the official OFC YouTube channel following the conclusion of the final match.
In the day’s early match already eliminated New Caledonia and American Samoa meet in their final game of the tournament at 2.30pm local time.
American Samoa have wooed locals with their brave performances but will most likely complete their tournament minus their inspirational goalkeeper Fred Maiava according to coach Rupeni Luvu.
“I think I’ll have to look at the second keeper, Sione Moeaki, for our last game, I’m not sure if Maiava will be fit to play. For me Sione did well against Solomon Islands, he’s new and he tried his best and if he has to play he will do well.
“I think we have to treat all the games the same and try to finish high. We can’t lose hope just because we’re out of contention, we’re still part of this competition,” he says.
New Caledonia started the competition with two straight defeats but have bounced back with two consecutive wins and will eye American Samoa as a chance to secure a third place finish.
Their coach Kamali Fitialeata may be wonder what might have been after the tournament but for now he remains focused on defeating a team he maintains he has the utmost respect for.
“American Samoa is an audacious team that has a lot of honour on the field of play and for the game. We respect them but we’ll put a game plan in place to shut them down, and hopefully we can end the competition on a strong note,” says Fitialeata.
Coverage of the matches via live streaming will be available at the official OFC YouTube channel.
Live text updates will be available at www.oceaniafootball.com, while updates and social media comment are on Twitter @OFCFootball and the official Oceania Football Confederation Facebook page.
OFC U-20 Championship – MATCH DAY 5 PREVIEW
This is the official preview of Match Day 5. Please note squads are subject to change.
New Caledonia v American Samoa
2.30pm local time, Saturday 31 May
Referee: Nelson SOGO [SOL]
Assistant Referee 1: Avinesh NARAYAN [FIJ]
Assistant Referee 2: Jeremy GARAE [VAN]
4th Official: Ravinesh BEHARI [FIJ]
New Caledonia: 1. Yoran WAIMA [GK], 2. Brandon MEAOU, 3. Jordy KAUSUO, 4. Pierre KAUMA, 5. Theo JALABERT, 6. Jorys LALIE, 7. Jim OUKA, 8. Mickael PARTODIKROMO, 9. Raphael OIREMOIN, 10. Joseph ATHALE, 11. Valentin NYKEINE, 12. Didier SIMANE, 13. Eugene SAKILIA, 14. Frederic NEMIA, 15. Johan IDRELE, 16. Jacky WETEWEA, 17. Jacky WEINANE, 18. Marion WARU, 20. Thomas SCHMIDT [GK], 21. Josue WATHIEPEL.
Coach: Kamali FITIALEATA [NCL]
American Samoa: 23. Sione Haisila MOEAKI [GK], 2. Johnny SIONE, 3. Neemia KALEOPA, 4. Paul COLLINS, 5. Paia IPINIU, 6. Sam KOME, 8. Rafael ROCHA, 9. Ryan PAAGA, 10. Sinisa TUA, 1. Falai KERISIANO, 12. Kaleopa SILIGI, 13. Fala LEVAULA, 14. Tokilupelekina AFU, 15. David ALO, 16. Lotupo LAMETA, 17. Henry LAMETA, 18. Tokoita VAIELI.
Coach: Rupeni LUVU [ASA]
Injured: 1. Fred MAIAVA [GK]
Unavailable: 7. Ruben LUVU
Papua New Guinea v Vanuatu
5pm local time, Saturday 31 May
Referee: George TIME [SOL]
Assistant Referee 1: Johnny NIABO [SOL]
Assistant Referee 2: Sione TEU [TGA]
4th Official: Averii JACQUES [TAH]
Papua New Guinea: 1. Koniel VAGI [GK], 2. Abel REDENUT, 3. Jonel KAMBUAL, 4. Ayrton YAGAS, 5. Rodger SAKING, 6. Dirik KOMOLONG, 7. Issac LALO, 9. Papalau AWELE, 10. Steve INIA, 11. Peter DABINYABA, 12. Gibson JIMMY [GK], 13. Maya BOB, 14. Freddy TUPANI, 15. Nicky BENJAMIN, 16. Randol BONGI, 17. Ferdahlas NAMUESH, 18. Danny KEVIN, 19. Frederick SIMONGI, 20. Nigel MALAGIAN.
Coach: Wynton RUFER [NZL]
Injured: 1. Koniel VAGI [GK]
Suspended: 8. Joshua TALAU
Vanuatu: 1. Charlie WAIVUI [GK], 2. Jaison THOMAS, 3. Goshen DONA, 4. Alphonse LENCY, 5. Joseph IARUEL, 6. Remy KALSARAP, 7. Elie MELITE ROSSI, 8. Justin KOKA, 9. Tony KALTACK, 10. Bong KALO, 11. Alex SANIEL, 12. Andre BULE, 13. Ruben FRANK, 14. Kersom KALSONG, 15. Etienne NAIEU, 16. Jacky RUBEN, 17. Sam IWAI, 18. Kerry IAWAK, 19. Renold IWAI, 24. Ricky DICK [GK]
Coach: Etienne MERMER [VAN]
Fiji v Solomon Islands
7.30pm local time, Sat
urday 31 May
Referee: Albert MARU [PNG]
Assistant Referee 1: Terry PIRI [COK]
Assistant Referee 2: Folio MOEAKI [TGA]
4th Official: Averii JACQUES [TAH]
Fiji: 1. Nairube MISIWANI [GK], 2. Praneel NAIDU, 3. Ganish PRASAD, 4. Jale DRELOA, 5.Antonio TIVUNI, 6. Mohammed KHAN, 7. Nickel CHAND, 8. Setareki HUGHES, 9.Samuela NAIBENIA, 10. Junior RAO, 11. Josefa KOROI, 12. Ratu Tevita WARANAIVALU, 13. Mataisi TOMA, 14. Ravnit Shelvin CHAND, 15. Saula WAQA,16.Jonetana BUKSH, 17. Kolinio SIVOKI, 18. Al-Taaf Mansoor SAHIB, 19. Ashnil RAJU 20. Shaneel NAIDU [GK]
Coach: Ravinesh KUMAR [FIJ]
Solomon Islands: 1. Philip MANGO [GK], 2. Rollence MISITANA, 3. Simon DAOI, 4. Loea Erekona LEMIX, 5. Misitana SAMANI, 6. Alffie CHACHA, 7. Edmond TAEVO, 8. Joachim KAIRI, 9. Dunstan QUANAFIA JNR., 10. Jared RONGOSULIA, 11. Herrick LAUTALO, 12. Obed KEVIN, 13. Fred BALA, 14. Atkin KAUA, 15. Leslie RAMO, 16. Timothy BUNABO JNR., 17. Brett HONISAWA, 18. Allen PETER, 19. Timothy BAKALE, 20. James DO’ORO [GK]
Coach: Commins MENAPI [SOL]