Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea have both experienced change since their previous meeting at the OFC Nations Cup last year, and both are equally determined to keep their 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ dream alive when they meet on Friday evening in the first of two OFC Stage 3 matches.
The famous Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara is set to host the match and a parochial crowd is expected to fill any spare piece of grass in and around the grounds as the home side hope to put on a performance which will earn them three sought after points.
With a new coach at the helm, Spaniard Felipe Vega Arango Alonso, the Solomon Islands have been reshaping themselves into the mould set by their new coach’s philosophy.
Two friendly matches against Fiji, a draw and a loss, provided an excellent opportunity for Vega Arango Alonso to see his new charges in competitive action and although the results weren’t in their favour, there were plenty of positives for him to work with.
Vega Arango Alonso said the matches against Fiji showed the team is progressing, which is a good thing.
“I think they are progressing every day a little bit,” he said.
“I think the Fiji trip was good so you can see how we are playing. You see the chemistry of the team and you also see the things we need to work on like the finishing. In Fiji we had a lot of chances and we couldn’t convert.”
He said the side are incredibly motivated to deliver for fans on home soil, but also to secure three points ahead of an equally important match in Port Moresby on Tuesday.
“At the moment, we have two matches with them, Friday and Tuesday, and we have to get four points,” he explains.
“So, the match for us is simple, we have to win and get the three points because if you tie here and have to win there, it’s a lot harder.
“If you win here, you are putting pressure on the opposition so my only approach here is that we’ve got to win.”
What plays against the home side will be having talismanic captain Henry Fa’arodo sitting the match out with a suspension.
However, fellow veteran Benjamin Totori will wear the armband in his absence and confidence in the camp remains high as the remaining members of the squad look to do themselves, their country, and their captain, proud.
Just like their opponents, Papua New Guinea have had to rebuild somewhat since the OFC Nations Cup, with coach Flemming Serritslev losing a large portion of his squad after the regional tournament.
“You’re very diplomatic when you say we’ve had ‘a few changes’, because we’ve actually lost 10 of our players – so it’s been many changes,” Serritslev said.
“Luckily the new players, the young players, they’ve adapted well to the playing style and philosophy we have with this team.”
Despite the personnel changes, Papua New Guinea have shown the depth of their talent as the young side adapted well to impress during the two World Cup Qualifier matches in June.
“They did very well in the match we had against Tahiti. They played well for the first 80 minutes but we run out of petrol in the last minutes there, and in Tahiti they did well and won against Tahiti for the first time in history.”
Serritlsev and his charges are now keen to get the ball rolling on Friday night as they look to book their place in the Stage 3 final with New Zealand.
“I think we have prepared very well for this match, and I am sure Solomon Islands can say the same.”
Neither of these sides will be relying on previous results when the match gets underway on Friday evening, meaning fans can expect a lively, competitive encounter.
Solomon Islands vs. Papua New Guinea
Friday 9 June, 2017
Lawson Tama Stadium
Honiara, Solomon Islands
Referee: Jared GILLETT (AUS)
Assistant Referee 1: Matthew CREAM (AUS)
Assistant Referee 2: Anton SHCHETININ (AUS)
Fourth Official: Shaun EVANS (AUS)
Vital Statistics: This marks Solomon Islands first competitive match under recently appointed Technical Director/National Team Coach Filipe Vega Arango Alonso.
The Players: Stalwart Benji Totori is back playing club football in New Zealand and looking in fine form. He will also be leading the team for the first time in the absence of Henry Fa’arodo. An experienced and talented player, he has plenty to add as a key player as well as in a leadership role.
Coach Quote: “I do not hope we will win, I believe it. As I am the coach, if I don’t believe that we are going to win then I shouldn’t be coaching. We have been training hard, the players are motivated, so we should do well.”
Team List: 1. Phillip MANGO (GK), 2. Joachim WAROI, 3. Robert LAUA, 4. Nelson SALE, 5. Haddis AENGARI, 6. Jeffery BULE, 7. Jerry DONGA, 8. Timothy BAKALE, 9. Benjamin TOTORI, 10. Micah LEA’ALAFA, 11. Gagame FENI, 12. Zantas KABINI (GK), 13. Emmanuel POILA, 14. Thomas AMASIA, 15. John AETA, 16. Molea TIGI, 17. Atkin KAUA, 18. Obed OFEA, 19. Mathias IANI, 20. James NAKA, 21. Richard HIROMANA, 23. Richard RARAMO
Coach: Felipe VEGA ARANGO ALONSO (ESP)
Papua New Guinea
Vital Statistics: Papua New Guinea have the edge over Solomon Islands in recent times with the 2-1 victory they secured at the 2016 OFC Nations Cup the last competitive encounter between these two nations.
The Players: Raymond Gunemba as always is in stunning form with speed and agility to burn. He’ll be a tough player to close down, but so too will expected strike partner David Browne. They youngster showed in his short appearance against Tahiti that he’s eager to make his mark on the international stage.
Coach Quote: “They have a new coach and are trying to adopt a different style to what they were playing before so it’s difficult for me to say anything about the strengths of the team. But what we know very well is that Solomon Islands has very good individual players.
Team List: 2. Abel REDENUT, 3. Richard ALOIS, 4. Alwin KOMOLONG, 5. Felix KOMOLONG, 6. Patrick AISA, 7. Raymond GUNEMBA, 8. Michael FOSTER, 10. David BROWNE, 13. Roland BALA, 14. Emmanuel SIMON, 15. Phillip STEVEN, 16. Orbert BIKA, 17. Jacob SABUA, 19. Clement WILLIS, 21. Ila DAVID (GK), 22. Donavan MURRAY, 23. Ronald WARISAN (GK)
Coach: Flemming SERRITSLEV (DEN)