Erakor Golden Stars’ OFC Champions League survival will be at stake on the final match day of Group C when they face the reigning title holders Team Wellington at Port Vila’s Korman Stadium.
Should Ba FC fulfill expectations and defeat Samoa’s Kiwi FC in Friday’s opening match, Erakor will need to at least to draw with the group favourites from the New Zealand capital to qualify for the last eight of Oceania’s premier club football competition.
It is a daunting task for the hosts who produced a lacklustre first up performance to edge past Kiwi before buckling under the pressure against Ba FC to let victory slip through their fingers.
Local fans will be hoping the leadership qualities of the likes of Jacky Ruben will come to the fore in the do-or-die encounter and the 2014 OFC Under 20 Championship Golden Ball winner insists the hosts will do everything in their power to cause an upset.
Ruben, who has been one of Erakor’s brightest stars throughout the tournament, maintains his full confidence in the spirit and togetherness of his tightknit team.
“I’m from Erakor village and started to play there in our school team from the age of eight and Erakor is my team, said the the 22-year old midfielder.
“Last year I missed their campaign in Tahiti so it’s special for me to play home here at Korman Stadium right next to my village.
“It’s our home and it’s our soil and we have to play our hearts out for fans and family who are behind us.
“Of course there is a lot of pressure on us, playing in front of our home crowd, but we will have to keep focused,” Ruben added.
Coach Benjamin Noel admits Team Wellington will present a major challenge but he also believes his troops will rise to the occasion.
“We have a game plan and if we can stick to it we are capable of causing a surprise against the Oceania champions,” he said.
“They have more experienced players and they recently went to the Club World Cup Championship but we are prepared.
“We can qualify with a draw and that’s a chance but the boys will need to learn how to handle pressure and expectations,” explained Noel.
The Erakor coach is adamant his players will have to put their previous matches behind them to have any chance against the title holders.
“We need to forget what happened in the previous games, it’s the past and we will now have to focus on the next game which is like a final for us.
“We are playing against the champions and if you want to become the champion you have to beat them so that is on our mind right now.
“For the fans I can promise we going to play and try for the entire 90 minutes, it’s our final and things can change, we are preparing hard and I trust the boys we can still turn this around,” the Erakor coach insisted.