Papua New Guinea may have come up just short in their bid to win the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ Oceania Qualifiers but that has not impacted the warm welcome their players have received on returning home.

Papua New Guinea put on an impressive showing in Qatar, but eventually exited the tournament following a thrilling 3-2 loss to Solomon Islands at the semi-final stage.

Prior to that, the Kapuls ran eventual winners New Zealand desperately close in a 1-0 loss in their first game before securing well-earned 1-0 and 2-1 wins over New Caledonia and Fiji respectively.

They pushed Solomon Islands all the way in the final-four but will take heart from what could be seen as an improvement on their qualification campaign for 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ – in which they finished bottom of their group in the third round of OFC qualification.

Their players have been heading home from Qatar over the past week and have been greeted by friends and family when doing so – with a hero’s welcome for others documented on social media.

Ati Kepo was one of the revelations of the tournament for Papua New Guinea. The pacey winger scored twice in Qatar, including his stunning solo effort against Fiji in the group stage. His brother, Kolu Kepo, also featured in three games at the tournament and the duo received a warm reception when they returned to Kalo on Wednesday, April 6.

The whole PNG team arrived back in Port Moresby on Monday, April 4 with the notable exception of Tommy Semmy, the nation’s joint top-scorer at the tournament having also netted twice.

The forward flew back to Australia, where he has been plying his trade with Altona Magic FC in Melbourne, Victoria.

He told media in his homeland all about his “honour” at representing his nation in Qatar and is looking forward to the next time the Kapuls are together.

“We will miss the vibe and everyone but it is what it is,” he told the Post-Courier.

“I will go and do my thing and make the country proud and hopefully meet the boys again.”

Papua New Guinea’s attention will now turn to the future, with the XVII Pacific Games in Solomon Islands next July and building toward the OFC Nations Cup in 2024.