LAUTOKA – Famous for producing players with silky skills Solomon Islands are sure to be one of this tournament’s most exciting teams to watch. Assistant coach Moses Toata is confident Solomon Islands can go close to qualification for the Beijing Olympics.
Toata is convinced that with the addition of Benjamin Totori (pictured), Nelson Sale and Michael Fifi to the squad there is plenty of reason to be optimistic.
"We are ready for this tournament. We have strength and depth in our squad and with players such as Benjamin Totori and Alick Maemae we have good experience. I am confident our team can perform very well," Toata said at the team’s official training session yesterday.
A quick glance at the Solomon Islands squad shows enough evidence to suggest Toata’s confidence is not misplaced. Waitakere United striker Benjamin Totori leads the golden boot race in the New Zealand Football Championship (NZFC) with ten strikes to his name this season and an impressive performance at the FIFA Club World Cup – Japan 2007 already under his belt.
Michael Fifi has enjoyed a relatively sound debut with struggling Canterbury United but his foreign excursion will serve Fifi and the squad well.
"Michael Fifi and Benjamin are good players I think everybody can see that. But there are other very strong players here that played at the South Pacific Games last year," says Toata.
Alick Maemae is another that fits the bill. The diminutive midfielder made his name in the NZFC with Youngheart Manawatu and knows all about the art of goalscoring and ghosting past defenders with a quick feint, turn of skill or sheer pace.
Maemae’s attacking gifts will provide the Solomon Islands with some unpredictability and flair certain to cause opposition defences plenty of concern.
Totori is full of praise for his team-mates and is not concerned about the imposing physicality of the towering Papua New Guinea players.
"If we can get the ball on the ground and play quickly we can give them problems. We have a good squad with Sale, Alick (Maemae) and I am very sure we can start this tournament with a win," Totori said.
If there is one obvious difference between Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea’s respective squads it is the disparity in physique with the Papua New Guinea muscular defence likely to tower over any player in a Solomon Islands strip.
"We played one warm-up match against a lower league team in Australia and won 10-0 but our other matches were cancelled because of the weather.
We don’t know much about Papua New Guinea’s team but we will give them respect," Toata says with a smile.
Match Day 1
OFC Men’s Olympic Football Tournament
Papua New Guinea vs. Solomon Islands
Kick-off: 19H00hrs (Fiji Time)