Fiji eye history

For many years Fiji was considered as one of the leading football nations in the Pacific region.
The country’s FIFA World Cup journey, which pre-dates all current Oceania nations apart from New Zealand, stretches back to 1981.
They even defeated former OFC powerhouse Australia in a memorable World Cup upset.
That was over a quarter of a century ago, and in the past decade the likes of Tahiti, New Caledonia and Solomon Islands have all caught up to leave Fiji on the fringes of continental supremacy.
However, the past 12 months proved that Fiji football is once again on the rise.
They did not only qualify for last year’s U-20 World Cup, their first FIFA tournament, but they defied expectations by securing an impressive 3-0 win over Honduras.
Almost immediately after U-20 World Cup came Fiji’s equally unexpected qualification for the Rio Olympics in August.
The OFC Nations Cup, which will get underway later this week in Papua New Guinea, will offer another opportunity for Fiji to reinstate their regional status.
Experienced central defender Alvin Singh believes the current senior national team is primed to rediscover some of the glory from decades past.
“We are well aware of what Fiji was like back then, and we want to bring that back.
“We used to be one of the top nations in the Pacific, but now other nations have caught up to us and this Nations Cup is a good chance to get back to the top,’ said the 27-year-old.
“Seeing the U-20 boys and the Olympic team qualify is motivation for us.
“The national team hasn’t achieved anything for a long time, and the young teams’ performance is a big motivation.”
Singh, who has featured in two previous World Cup campaigns, also insists that under former Australia coach Frank Farina the senior side made significant improvements.
“This team is well balanced with heaps of young players and some experience as well.
“We want to be in the final this year because we have the team to do so.”
Singh believes Fiji’s opening group game against a New Zealand side in transition on 28 May remains an intriguing match-up.
“I’m not aware of the form of the New Zealand team, but New Zealand are New Zealand and always play good football.
“It will be tough, but I’m sure all Island nations are ready to go,” he said.
Fiji, of course, boast a not-so-secret weapon in the form of star striker Roy Krishna.
As the only Pacific Islands player in Australia’s professional A-League, Krishna is a beacon for young aspirants across the Pacific.
Playing for Wellington Phoenix, the A-League’s lone New Zealand team, Krishna will also have some insight into the All Whites heading into the opener.
“Most of the boys look up to Roy, he brings professionalism to the team, and when he speaks everyone listens,” Singh said.
“The young guys are motivated simply by playing alongside Roy.”
Singh, who has previously played in Papua New Guinea with local outfit Hekari United, believes the climate in PNG will provide a challenge for every team.
“It is really hot there even compared to Fiji, but we have been training in hot weather,” he said.
“For the game against New Zealand with their cold climate, it will benefit us.”
For more on the world game visit www.fifa.com


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