Fiji finished their time in Qatar on a winning note on Monday evening (Qatar time), with captain Roy Krishna’s first-half double securing a 2-1 victory over Vanuatu in an international friendly at The Hamad Bin Khalifa Stadium.
With Fiji failing to advance out of Group B at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ Oceania Qualifiers, and Vanuatu having to withdraw due to COVID-19, the match offered an opportunity for both sides to get more game time under their belts and for the winner to accumulate FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking points.
Fiji coach Flemming Serritslev made a handful of changes to the starting 11 which lost 2-1 to Papua New Guinea days earlier, while Vanuatu were missing Australia-based star Mitch Cooper, who had already returned home.
The excitement of the occasion for Vanuatu – who hadn’t played a competitive match since arriving in Qatar – was clear to see prior to kick-off, and it went to another level when Andre Batick curled a shot around Fijian keeper Mohammed Alam 16 minutes into the match to give them the lead.
But just five minutes later Krishna made it even again after pouncing on a loose ball inside the box which he then drilled low into the net.
A quarter of an hour later the Bula Boys’ skipper was at it again, this time from the penalty spot after Vanuatu committed a foul in a desperate bid to prevent a shot following a Fiji break.
In the second half the patient passing game which had been present for much of the opening 45 minutes was replaced by a focus on the long ball, which saw the match open up.
Both sides had ample opportunity to add to their goal tally but were unable to capitalise.
While it was Krishna – Fiji’s most-capped player of all time – who stole the show on the night, the match also featured a glimpse at the future with the 90th-minute introduction of Nabil Begg, who made his international debut for Fiji just over a week after celebrating his 18th birthday.
The friendly also marked the first international outings for Vanuatu’s Masing Kalotang, Jared Clark, Jordy Tasip, Tom Saksak and Jayson Bule.
Vanuatu 1 (Andre BATICK 16′)
Fiji 2 (Roy KRISHNA 21′, 36′)
Vanuatu: 1 Masing KALOTANG (GK), 2 Brian KALTAK (c), 4 Tasso JEFFREY, 5 Jared CLARK, 8 Jacky RUBEN, 10 Ronaldo WILKINS, 11 Lency PHILIP, 12 Barry MANSALE, 13 Jesse KALOPONG, 14 Andre BATICK, 23 Jayson BULE. Substitutions: 20 James IAMAR (GK), 3 Alphonse LENCY, 7 Jordy TASIP, 9 Kensi TANGIS, 15 Tom SAKSAK, 17 John WOHALE, 18 Bethuel OLLIE. Coach: Etienne MERMER
Fiji: 1 Mohammed ALAM (GK), 3 Muni Shivam NAIDU, 6 Inoke TURAGALAILAI, 7 Anish KHEM, 8 Setareki HUGHES, 9 Roy KRISHNA (c), 12 Tevita WARANAIVALU, 14 Sairusi NALAUBU, 16 Atonio TUIVUNA, 17 Patrick JOSEPH, 21 Kishan SAMI. Substitutions: 22 Isikeli SEVANAIA (GK), 23 Akuila MATEISUVA (GK), 2 Peter RAVITISAI, 5 Remueru TEKIATE, 10 Nabil BEGG, 11 Edward AARON, 13 Rahul NARESH, 19 Afraz ALI, 20 Ashnil RAJU. Coach: Flemming SERRITSLEV