Ifunaoa eyes knockout stages

Solomon Warriors striker Dennis Ifunaoa interviewed by OFC TV (Phototek)

Solomon Warriors striker Dennis Ifunaoa believes the reigning S-League champions are primed to join fellow Solomon Islands outfit Henderson Eels in the final eight of the OFC Champions League 2020 tournament by grabbing one of the two qualifying spots on offer in Group C.

Hosted by last year’s runners-up AS Magenta the opening matchday in the group, which also includes tournament debutants AS Tiare Tahiti and Cook Islands qualifiers Tupapa Maraerenga FC, will get underway on Sunday afternoon at Noumea’s Stade Numa-Daly.

The Solomon Islanders will be well aware of the task ahead of them, especially following their experiences from last year, when they were also paired with Magenta and Tupapa in the group stages.

“I think this is a good group for us. We know Magenta, we played them last year and we know how they play, and we also know Tupapa, so it’s a help for us,” insisted Ifunaoa.

The 29-year old striker is adamant the Solomon Warriors have learned from their disappointing 2019 campaign, which ended early with a third-place finish behind Auckland City and Magenta, in front of their own fans in Honiara.

“I feel confident with the boys. We had a tough year and tough season but I feel confident,” he insisted.

“We have a number of experienced players and a few young boys who have just joined the team since last season. For one or two of them it will be the first time to play in the OFC Champions League but they are doing great,” he added.

With the likes of Ifunaoa and Jerry Donga, Tony Kaltack, Gibson Daudau, Molea Tigi, John Alick and Molis Gagame just to mention a few, the Solomon Islanders are blessed with plenty of firepower up front and a lot of experienced cool heads around the park.

In addition, SIFF Technical Director Moses Toata will be on hand to lend  his experience and expertise to the cause by providing assistance to Selson Molea on his maiden OFC Champions League campaign as a Head Coach.

But despite all the talent, planning and careful preparations, the Solomon Islands champions refuse to get carried away.

“Not looking too far ahead and our first target is just to qualify for the next round, the knock-out stages,” Ifunaoa explained.

“We are really happy with our preparations and the New Caledonian conditions are so much like in the Solomons, it’s nice and hot. So far we are happy where the team is at. It’s important we win our first match. Tiare is a new team, we didn’t see much of them, we don’t know much about them, so we just have to be ready, we have to play according to our system and stick to our gameplan so things don’t get too complicated and difficult for us,” the Solomon Warriors forward added.

In Sunday’s opening matchday in Group C, the Solomon Warriors will face tournament newcomers AS Tiare Tahiti from 4:00pm local time at Noumea’s Stade Numa-Daly.

Meanwhile hosts AS Magenta and Cook Islands qualifiers Tupapa Maraerenga FC will kick of their OFC Champions League 2020 campaign at 7:00pm local time at the same venue.

To view the results, match schedule and latest news for the OFC Champions League 2020 Click Here

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