Vanuatu’s local hope has promised to do everything possible to avoid an early exit from the OFC Champions League on home soil. (Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek).
Ifira Black Bird, after a 2-0 loss in their opening fixture against Papua New Guinea’s Hekari United, must beat AS Pirae from Tahiti in their second Group B match later today or their maiden OFC Champions League campaign will be over with one group match still to play.
Conversely, AS Pirae, after a dominant 3-0 win over New Caledonia’s Tiga Sport in their first match, can cement a semi-final berth with victory at Freshwater Stadium in Port Vila.
The magnitude of the occasion isn’t lost on Ifira coach Jean Robert Yelou.
“We want to stay alive in this competition so I’ll do everything to try and get those three points,” Yelou said.
“I will play our best team and I’ve already told the boys we have to do everything in our power to keep our hopes alive.
“Our destiny is still in our own hands. Nothing is impossible.”
Monday was the Black Bird’s first ever Champions League match and, for the most part, Ifira competed stoically with their more experienced PNG rival, the 2010 champions.
“This is our first time taking part,” Yelou said. “So we learnt a lot and the players now know you have to stay focused for the whole ninety minutes. They’ve had that experience, so I’m sure they’ll be more composed in this next game.”
In an exciting end-to-end encounter against Hekari United, filled with sweeping attacking movements, it was only two defensive lapses and poor finishing that ultimately proved the home team’s undoing.
Yelou said scoring goals is an absolute priority.
“At the end of the day you only win when you put the ball in the net,” he said. “When you come home no-one asks how well you played, they ask if you won and who scored.”
A major plus for Yelou and his green and yellow machine is home town support. Today is a public holiday so the newly minted stadium will be rocking like never before.
“Of all sports in Vanuatu football is the first priority. Last game it was a working day and we still had a big crowd. This game it may be double those numbers and I’m certain the crowd will be very good for us.”
Before Ifira’s crunch game at 3.00pm, Hekari United will be looking to book a semi-final spot when they tackle the youthful Tiga Sport at midday.