Solomon Islands men’s national team coach Felipe Vega-Arango is relying on a flying visit to Australia to provide his squad with some much-needed match fitness ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ OFC preliminary competition in Qatar.  

With the Telekom S-League having concluded in November last year, and February’s planned Solomon Islands President’s Cup being cancelled due to the pandemic, the national team have not only been away from competitive football for the best part of three months, but unable to train as a group for long periods as well.  

“With the latest restrictions in the Solomon Islands we had to stop practice and couldn’t do anything for three weeks,” Vega-Arango said.   

“We didn’t even leave our houses. After that we could only practice with groups of five players, but there’s not much you can do with that. 

“On top of that three players tested positive and then had to be isolated for another 10 days, so they were sitting in their house for over a month. 

“I don’t want to complain though, it has been the same for everyone (in Oceania). This is a tough time around the world.  

“But it makes these games in Australia extremely important, because our players have not played for a long time. 

“The games in Australia will give us our only test before Qatar. The big hope is that nobody gets injured, because the long time without playing is going to make that very difficult.”  

Bad weather in Queensland saw the Solomon Islands’ first match against a local club side cancelled last weekend, meaning they’ll now play three matches between March 1-8.

They’ll face local sides Caboolture SFC and Brisbane Strikers, along with a selection from A-League club Brisbane Roar. 

While Vega-Arango hopes to be able to test out his starting 11 in the matches, his hand may be forced by player health concerns and fitness levels. 

“I need to see how the players are doing. If I have planned starting players who are feeling a bit tight, I don’t want to cause an injury,” he said. 

“At this moment I just want everyone to get some game minutes. We just need to play and at this moment any team is good for us to play.” 

The Solomon Islands National team will depart for Qatar on March 10 ahead of taking on the Cook Islands in the opening match of the tournament on March 17. 

Main photo credit: SIFF