Scoring goals without conceding is going to be integral for Solomon Islands and Fiji as they take on New Zealand and Samoa respectively in tomorrow’s OFC U-17 Championship Group B action at Stade Pater.
Having played out a 1-1 draw in their opening matches the two sides now have to take goal difference into consideration as they chase a top two finish.
Despite New Zealand’s dominant display in their first match, Solomon Islands coach Marlon Houkarawa is confident that his side could cause an upset with the right game plan in their 4pm fixture against the Kiwis.
“We’ll analyse the New Zealand team and work on our attacking strategies and defending strategies and come back with something for New Zealand,” he said.
Houkarawa’s confidence stems from experience against the New Zealand style of play that assistant coach Jerry Allen has picked up during his time as coach of Hekari United in the OFC Champions League.
“I definitely think Jerry will give an advantage. He’s coached a lot of Champions League games against New Zealand sides and will be an asset for the team,” he said.
“His experience against New Zealand teams is what we will bank on.”
New Zealand coach Danny Hay also has a lot of experience with their opponent’s style of play, and is preparing his side for a very challenging and fast-paced match.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play with some very good Solomon players over the years and I know it’s going to be a difficult one,” he said.
Hay’s top priority is ensuring his players are well-rested and prepared for what will most likely be another gruelling match in hot conditions against a very fit side.
“We are trying to recover now from the energy sapping game against Samoa and get ready for our next match.”
Following New Zealand and Solomon Islands’ clash, Fiji and Samoa will kick-off the at 7pm, and Fiji coach Shalen Lal hopes to replicate New Zealand’s score to secure their place in the top two of Group B.
“We are going to come prepared and see how we can compare in that game,” he said.
“Goals are needed because we are going in with one point, and Solomon too are going in with one point so it’s more goals, and more preparation, to get ourselves back in the tournament.”
Samoa coach Desmond Faaiuaso is preparing his side for another tough match against Fiji, tweaking areas of weakness that were taken advantage of by New Zealand.
“We lacked in our midfield so we’ll be working on our defensive side for the next match,” he said.
“We all know New Zealand is a very tough opponent, but Fiji is too. We have a game plan that will suit Fiji.”
Despite conceding double figures in their first match, Faaiuaso is holding his head high and has confidence that his side will prove themselves worthy contenders in the OFC U-17 Championship.
“We can handle this level. Our boys were just a little bit nervous because it’s our first game here and also it’s against New Zealand,” he said.
“Hopefully, next time we will do well.”
New Zealand vs. Solomon Islands
Wednesday 15 February
Vital Statistics: New Zealand’s 11-0 win against Samoa in the first match of Group B comes close to the Kiwi’s biggest win in the history of the OFC U-17 Championship. New Zealand trumped the high score margin in the 2003 edition when they defeated Tonga 13-0.
The Players: Eyes will be on strikers Charles Spragg and Matthew Palmer after both players scored hat-tricks in New Zealand’s opener. Spragg scored his first off an assist from Palmer in the 20th minute, then followed it up with another in before the half time whistle. Palmer was later to get his name on the board, scoring his first in the 67th minute but followed it with a second only three minutes later. Palmer and Spragg both made it three in the third and fourth minute of additional time.
Coach Quote: “We know it’s going to be very difficult. They’re a good side with a huge amount of history.”
New Zealand: 1. Dylan BENNETT (GK), 2. Jordan SPAIN, 3. Josh ROGERSON, 4. Liberato CACACE, 5. Jake WILLIAMS, 6. Leon VAN DEN HOVEN, 7. Elijah JUST, 8. Oliver DUNCAN, 9. Max MATA, 10. Willem EBBINGE, 11. Matthew CONROY, 12. Zac JONES (GK), 13. Matthew JONES, 14. Kingsley SINCLAIR, 15. Ben DEELEY, 16. Oliver WHYTE, 17. Matthew PALMER, Charles SPRAGG.
Coach: Danny HAY (NZL)
Vital Statistics: The Melanesian’s last encounter with New Zealand in the OFC U-17 Championship was over a decade ago in 2003. The two sides were inseparable for 90 minutes, ending the match with a 0-0 draw. Solomon Islands are also the only nation to take three points from New Zealand in the competition, other than former OFC member Australia, after defeating them 2-1 in the 1993 semi-final.
The Players: Elis Mana’s quick thinking and sharp accuracy kept Solomon Islands in the competition in their first match of Group B, where Mana followed up a Fiji clearance to score the equaliser in the 51st minute, ending the game 1-1.
Coach Quote: “New Zealand is obviously a good team, they’re good defenders and they’re the champions but I think we will give them a good game.”
Solomon Islands: 1. Joel NANAGO (GK), 2. John AETA, 3. Aengari GAGAME, 4. Junior ASHLEY, 5. Raymond DAUABU, 6. Bobby RAMO, 7. Junior KAONI, 8. Simon JEDZINI, 9. Don KEANA, 10. Elis MANA, 11. Ali MEKAWIR, 12. John BROWN (GK), 13. Stanley RYNIKER, 14. Danny OFENI, 15. Alfred ELVIS, 16. John MANA, 17. Michael LALO, 18. Steward TOATA, 19. Richmond HATARAU, 20. Junior ALLEN.
Coach: Marlon HOUKARAWA (SOL)
Fiji vs. Samoa
Wednesday 15 February
Vital Statistics: Fiji’s last encounter with Samoa was in the 2015 OFC U-17 Championship where the Melanesians dominated the match to win 4-1.
The Players: Striker Ratu Dau wasted no time on the field in Fiji’s first match of Group B, scoring from a pass at the penalty spot in the third minute to give Fiji the early lead against Solomon Islands.
Coach Quote: “Goals are needed because we are going in with one point, and Solomon too are going in with one point so it’s more goals, and more preparation now, to get ourselves back in the tournament.”
Fiji: 1. Mohammed ALAM (GK), 2. Kishan SAMI, 3. Paula TUINASERAU, 4. Simione NABENU, 5. Jovilisi MULOCA, 6. Mohammed NAIZAL, 7. Semi MATALAU, 8. Shaneel NARAYAN, 9. Shaheel GOUNDER, 10. Navau TIKORUKU, 11. Fardean HUSSEIN, 12. Kemueli ULUIKAVORO, 13. Waisake SOGA, 14. Shivam NAIDU, 15. Iliesa RAKUKA, 16. Ratu DAU, 17. Jone SUKULU, 18. Romit NARAYAN, 19. Mohammed JAMIL, 20. Asaeli BATIKASA (GK).
Coach: Shalen Lal (FIJ)
Vital Statistics: Samoa’s 11-0 loss to New Zealand in their first match of Group B was the biggest loss the nation has ever had in the history of the competition. New Zealand was the maker of the previous record as well, defeating the Samoans 9-1 in 2001.
The Players: Auckland-based midfielder Darcy Knight put up a strong fight in their first match, taking on players he would have met in New Zealand’s NRFL Premier division during his 2016 season with Central United FC. Knight was dangerous on the counter attack for 73 minutes, when the overworked 16-year-old was replaced.
Coach Quote: “We have to prepare for Fiji. We all know New Zealand is a very tough opponent, but Fiji is too. We have a game plan that will suit Fiji.”
Samoa: 1. Pele FATU (GK), 2. Kitiona NAUER, 3. Harlen RUSSELL, 4. Sefa MAMEA-HIND, 5. Solomon GRANGER, 6. Stanley MAMEA, 7. Willie SAUILUMA, 8. Jackson NAUTU, 9. Darcy KNIGHT, 10. Falaniko NANUMEA, 11. Dauntae MARINER, 12. Lotial MANO, 13. Dilo TUMUA, 14. Jefferson FAAMATAU, 15. Jay POPESE, 16. Osa SAVELIO (GK), 17. Julius DUFFY, 18. Jenuem KEPU, 19. Elijah THEODOR, 22. Talita HAFOKA (GK).
Coach: Desmond Faaiuaso (SAM)
To view the match schedule for the OFC U-17 Championship 2017 visit www.oceaniafootball.com