Progression to the semi-final stage will come down to the wire in Group B as New Zealand, Fiji, and Solomon Islands hope to secure the two available spots in their final group matches at Stade Pater in Papeete on 18 February.
Solomon Islands open proceedings against Samoa at 4pm, and with only one point after a draw and a loss, it will be integral for the Melanesians to earn the three points and score goals if they hope to continue into the knockout stage.
Solomon Islands coach Marlon Houkarawa is still on a high from his side’s performance against New Zealand on Wednesday, and despite losing 2-1 to the Kiwis, he feels confident that his side will progress through if they focus on improving the accuracy of their attempts on goal.
“Goals will be part of the decider so we will work on our finishing and we will try see if we can make it to the semi-finals,” he said.
“We want to win the game. We’d like to play a good game as well. We hope to end with the three points from a win against Samoa.”
With the semi-final out of reach for Samoa, Desmond Faaiuaso hopes to exit the competition with points on the table and feels confident that his side will leave everything on the field in their final clash against Solomon Islands.
“We’ll try our best when we play against Solomon,” he said.
“We need to get some points on the board. We all know Solomon are really good but we’ll try our best.”
Sitting three points above Solomon Islands with only 90 minutes against New Zealand in the way of the semi-final, Fiji coach Shalen Lal is preparing his side to cause an upset in their clash against the Kiwis at 7pm.
“We will prepare for this game well. This is the game we have been waiting for. It’s the final match and it will decide where we stand,” he said.
After their 1-1 draw against Solomon Islands, Lal has full confidence that his side is capable of replicating what Solomons did against the defending champions.
“Solomon Islands has given them a big run and hopefully we can do the same.”
Lal’s only obstacle now is getting his players rested and ready after a very physical match against Samoa on Wednesday.
“We will be going for the recovery session with the boys and see which boys are injured and then we’ll work on how we’re going to counter New Zealand.”
Having secured themselves a semi-final, New Zealand coach Danny Hay is confident about their Fiji clash but hopes his side doesn’t approach the match with the same complacency that nearly cost them three points against Solomon Islands.
“That was a big wake up call for us as to the quality of the opposition teams we’re going to play against and the quality of individual players we’re going to play against,” he said.
“We want to try improve on our performance against Solomon, so we’re going to have to go through that and everyone in the camp is going to have to have a good long look at how they can try and make sure the performance is better leading into the next match against Fiji.”
Solomon Islands vs. Samoa
Saturday 18 February
Vital Statistics: Solomon Islands last met Samoa in the 2001 edition of the competition, when the Melanesians dominated the group stage match winning 7-0.
The Players: Solomon Islands Joel Nanago kept New Zealand at bay for the majority of the match, pulling off an impressive one-handed save minutes before he was called on again to save a close-range Max Mata attempt. In full stretch, Nanago just got a foot to the ball and sent it out for the corner.
Coach Quote: “As usual we want to win the game. We hope to end with the three point win against Samoa.”
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)
Vital Statistics: Samoa’s last victory in the OFC U-17 Championship was against Cook Islands in 2015. Samoa dominated the match 5-1 and proved their calibre again last year when they defeated the Cook Islands 2-0 in the preliminary competition for this year’s edition.
The Players: Samoa’s defence showed obvious improvement in their second match against Fiji. Kitiona Nauer fought hard to protect goalkeeper Pele Fatu by closing down the counter attack and looking to distribute the ball up the field.
Coach Quote: “We all know Solomon are really good but we’ll try our best.”
Samoa: 1. Pele FATU (GK), 2. Kitiona NAUER, 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).
Suspended: 3. Harlen RUSSELL
Coach: Desmond Faaiuaso (SAM)
New Zealand vs. Fiji
Saturday 18 February
Vital Statistics: With six points putting them in a comfortable position at the top of the table, New Zealand’s result in this match will determine whether they top the group or not.
The Players: Jake Williams will be a player to mark after the defender positioned himself at back post for a throw-in to opening scoring in the third minute of New Zealand’s match against Solomon Islands. The fullback proved dangerous on the wing, defending well and causing problems when on attack.
Coach Quote: “Everyone in the camp is going to have to have a good long look at how they can try and make sure the performance is better going into the next match (against Fiji).”
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: New Zealand was the maker of Fiji’s biggest defeat in the history of the competition in 2001, with the score at 9-0 at the end of the match. Fiji’s last encounter with the Kiwis in 2015 saw a smaller scoring margin, but New Zealand still dominated, winning 6-0.
The Players: Semi Matalau made a good impression in his debut as captain for the Fiji side, opening the scoring in the 9th minute and proving dominant up front for the remainder of the match, unlucky not to sink another attempt on goal.
Coach Quote: “We will prepare for this game well. This is the game we have been waiting for.”
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)
To view the match schedule for the OFC U-17 Championship 2017 visit www.oceaniafootball.com