Vanuatu – Fiji Match Summary click here
The match took place just before the grand final, which sees Solomon Islands take on New Zealand from 2.45pm local time.
The slick Vanuatu side have been one of the most impressive teams on show at the tournament and were only denied a place in the final by the hands of Solomon Islands goalkeeper Silas Seda, who pulled of two fine saves in a penalty shoot-out after the teams fought out a 3-3 extra-time draw at the semi-final stage.
In contrast, Fiji went into the play-off low on confidence after suffering a comprehensive 6-0 defeat at the hands of New Zealand in their semi-final.
They appeared to still be feeling the effects of that loss in the opening minutes today as Vanuatu started the more brightly and began to get their impressive passing game going.
Dangerman Jean Kaltak had the first chance of the match, blasting a shot straight at Fiji goalkeeper Akuila Mateisuva in the fifth minute after latching on to a well-placed long pass from cousin Brian Kaltak.
The next ten minutes was an even affair as the sides shared possession in the middle third but Jean Kaltak has been constant threat to opposition defences throughout the competition and was not going to be kept quiet for long.
When another opportunity arrived for him in the 16th minute, he was not likely to pass it up and instead finished in spectacular style, arrowing a right-foot shot across Mateisuva and into the top corner from the edge of the penalty box.
The goal was his fifth of the tournament – making him the golden boot leader – and he had his sixth by the time the half was up, showing good strength to hold off a couple of challenges in the box and fire a low strike home in stoppage time.
That left Fiji with a lot of work to do to get back into the game and they had a good chance to do so straight after the restart when a loose ball in the Vanuatu box fell to Malakai Rakula. But the Vanuatu defence scrambled well to block his shot and keep Fiji scoreless.
Aside from a couple of half chances that failed to come to fruition, there were few other clear-cut opportunities in an evenly-matched second half and Vanuatu were able to close the game out without many nervous moments to secure third spot.
Vanuatu coach Moise Poida was delighted to have finished on a high note and with the character his players showed in bouncing back from the heart-breaking semi-final loss.
“I thought it was important we won the game because we have prepared for this for a long time, we’ve been together for two years now,” he says.
“It’s better for us to go home with a bronze medal than with nothing. I’m proud of the boys and happy with the performance today.
“After the semi-finally they were very mentally down. We all felt like we should have been in the final but we have still done well at this tournament and I feel we are much stronger than in previous years.
“The boys’ time at our academy has now ended but I think that most of them can go on to have good careers because they are talented players. We are working to get them placed in top teams in the premier league in Vanuatu, that is the main objective. If they go back to the clubs they are with now the level will be lower and they will not improve.”