Having made an impressive debut to the OFC Champions League in 2015, Lupe Ole Soaga are confident of making a return to the 2017 edition.
Coach Paul Ualesi remains at the helm, and having added Samoa U-20 head coach to his CV in the meantime, he feels more than qualified to help take the squad through to the Group Stage for a second time.
Ualesi led the Samoan club champions during their 2015 debut and after defeating all three contenders in front of a home crowd during the qualifier, Lupe Ole Soaga continued that momentum in Fiji. Their opening match saw them hold Tahiti’s AS Pirae to a 3-3 draw however they were less fortunate against the other Group A contenders, losing to Fiji’s Ba 3-1 and New Caledonia’s Gaitcha FCN 8-1.
“I think that for a first appearance in this international tournament my team did really well,” Ualesi recalled.
“They were able to win all their games in the preliminary round to qualify for the group stage. I think we also did well in the group stage to come away with a draw against the Tahitian team and a close match against Ba. It was just our game with New Caledonia that we didn’t do so well in,” he added.
Stepping up to the international level of football displayed at the OFC Champions League was a challenge for Lupe Ole Soaga, but Ualesi was pleased to be given the opportunity to identify and improve areas of weakness.
“I think the biggest challenge at the time was calming the nerves of our players as it was their first time playing at an international level and nerves can get in the way of their performances,” he said.
“Another challenge is trying to maintain the discipline of our players. I always try to remind them that their discipline can win or lose them the game.
“It was a great learning experience for my team and although they did so well I think there is still room for improvement and a better performance for this next time around.”
With knowledge and experience on the Samoans’ side, Ualesi believes the team will dominate in the 2017 OFC Champions League Qualifier and prove a worthy contender for the main tournament.
“We have improved over the last two years and have remained consistent as one of the top teams in Samoa,” he said.
“The most recent season in 2016 was our best yet being undefeated and winning all the tournaments as well as being the shield holders.
“Our goal now is to win all our games and qualify for the OFC Champions League Group Stage.”
Lupe Ole Soaga will face American Samoa’s Utulei Youth FC, Cook Islands’ Puaikura FC and Tonga’s Veitongo FC in the round robin Qualifier kicking off 28 February to qualify for the 2017 OFC Champions League.
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