Tahiti captain Rooniu Tehau is banking on home advantage to overcome Solomon Islands in the OFC U-19 Championship semi-final today at Stade Pater.
Tehau is adamant he and his teammates will have an extra edge against their Melanesian opponents thanks in part to the vocal spectators they expect to turn up in support of the side’s bid for a place at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
With today a public holiday in French Polynesia, he’s called on football fans to come down and back the Aito Taure’a.
“We will need the support of the population at the stadium Wednesday evening,” he said.
“Our fans play a key role when we’re on the pitch and they make us want to challenge our limits.”
The 18-year-old has been captain of the Tahiti U-19s in the Ligue 1, Tahiti’s premier division, and he is counting on his teammates to get the job done.
“I’ve been captain of the team for more than a year now throughout the past season in Ligue 1, the first division championship,” he added.
“Everything is going well so far and the coach trusts me. But to be fair, we’re a group and in this team everyone is a captain.
“If there were 20 captains’ armbands, everyone would be wearing one.”
The stakes are high for both Tahiti and Solomon Islands heading into the semi-final with the winner earning a spot in the FIFA U-20 World Cup next year in Poland.
Solomon Islands topped their group to set-up the encounter with Tahiti who finished second behind New Zealand in Group A.
The AS Venus midfielder said Tahiti can’t take the Solomons lightly because they are a good team.
“I haven’t really watched Solomon play but from what our coach has been telling us, it’s a really good team and he told us not to underestimate them,” he stressed.
Tahiti are determined to grab the second qualification spot in the Oceania region with the winner of the first semi-final between New Caledonia and New Zealand set to take the other available berth.
“Everybody’s fully focused,” Tehau stated.
“We managed to achieve our first goal which was the qualification for the semi-finals and now we will have to face our most important goal: the world cup qualification.”
“We are one match away from the Poland 2019 and everybody is concentrated and invested in the game plan that the coach set up to go and get that World Cup ticket.”