Fiji U-20 on tour in NZ

The side is currently in New Zealand, which will play host to the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup, as they prepare for the qualifiers which will be held on Fiji soil for the second year running.
Coach Ravinesh Kumar says the side will spend 17 days in Auckland where they have lined up seven matches against local clubs as well as a two-match series against New Zealand’s U-20 squad.
And they’ve already got off to a winning start.
On Friday evening they played a New Zealand-based Fiji select, winning 1-0 at Bill McKinley Park, before taking a 2-0 victory over Waitakere City on Sunday.
Kumar says the practice matches are about giving confidence to the team through competitive, high-paced encounters.
With New Zealand having qualified for 2015 as hosts, he sees those two matches as key to Fiji’s preparations, but won’t be placing too much emphasis on the final results.
“We’re not going in for winning or losing, but to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of our team at different positions and different units,” Kumar explains.
“These games will give us a better picture of where to improve our team.”
He says while they’re testing the waters in New Zealand, he’s knows there is still a way to go before the side qualifies for their first FIFA World Cup experience.
“For this competition everyone is aware that New Zealand is not coming in as they’re always the favourites,” he says.
“Every country that is participating is trying to prepare well because this time one of the island countries will have an opportunity to be involved in the World Cup. None of the teams will be weak and we’re going to have to take each team as our greatest opponents.”
Kumar was coach of the successful squad in 2013, and says he has a few returning players to call on, as well as a large portion of the Fiji U-17 players who have joined the mix.
Fiji’s OFC U-17 Championship campaign wasn’t quite as inspiring as that of their older counterparts as they finished just fourth in the standings, but Kumar is confident those players have since made the step up a level.
“Iosefo Verevou is one of the players that is in this U-20 side, but what I would say is that they’re all at the same level now. All the strikers are the same, all the defenders the same level, because they’ve mostly been playing together in the Fiji National League,” he says.
“We played quite a few games in there against the districts like Ba, Lautoka, Nadi and Rewa. They played well, we lost one or two games but we did well in the other ones.”
And while their previous efforts are a confidence-boost for the team going into the Championship, Kumar says bettering 2013 three wins and one loss will not be easy.
“Of course yes, they did very well last year and this is what we are trying to do this year, to the best of our ability, is prove to be the best.
“Playing at home will be to the advantage of the team, with the crowd support the players will be more confident in front of their own fans.”
The OFC U-20 Championship is scheduled for 23-31 May at ANZ Stadium in Suva, Fiji.
Meanwhile the Fiji U-20 tour of New Zealand continues with five more matches scheduled for the team, including two against the New Zealand U-20 team.
Match Schedule:
Fiji U-20 vs. Metro AFC
Phyliss Street
April 29, 7pm kick-off
Fiji U-20 vs. Western Springs
Seddon Fields
May 1, 7pm kick-off
Fiji U-20 vs. New Zealand U-20
Bill McKinlay Park
May 4, 5pm kick-off
Fiji U-20 vs. New Zealand U-20
North Harbour Stadium
May 6, 6.30pm kick-off
Fiji U-20 vs. TBC
To see a quick-fire Q & A session with Fiji U-20 coach Ravinesh Kumar click here

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