Neither Cook Islands nor American Samoa can afford another slip up, while Samoa and Tonga will be looking to extend their advantage when the action resumes on Match Day 2 at the 2018 OFC U-19 Championship Qualifier in the Cook Islands.
Following their impressive 3-0 win over the Cook Islanders, Tonga will fancy their chances against American Samoa when the two sides kick off the day’s proceedings at the CIFA Academy in Rarotonga.
Organised at the back and dangerous going forward, Soane Mailangi’s team produced a clinical first half performance against the tournament hosts finding the back of the net three times before standing firm in the second half to keep the hosts scoreless.
The Tonga coach believes his side has the desire and ability to book their place at the OFC U-19 Championship later this year in Tahiti but he also warns against complacency and insists they will not take American Samoa lightly.
“When looking at American Samoa, for me a game is a game,” he said.
“American Samoa is a young team, most of them are young players, I think my team has to be really careful as there are no second chances in this tournament,” Mailani said.
Creating Tongan football history provides added motivation for the Tongans.
“Just like last week, our vision is to make football history for the Tongan Football Association and to be the first team to come up from the bottom into the top eight,” the coach said.
Despite their 3-0 defeat to Samoa on Match Day 1, American Samoa have every reason to remain positive about their chances.
Seen as the underdogs the young side were more than competitive against their fierce rivals for most of the encounter.
With less than fifteen minutes to go and the scores still level at nil-all the match was very much in the balance, before super sub Henry Smith took full advantage of the tiring American Samoan defence with a quickfire hat-trick.
American Samoa coach Tunoa Lui told his players to learn from their mistakes and keep their concentration for the full 90 minutes to have any chance against Tonga.
“We just have to try to control the ball and keep possession, we are giving the ball away too many times and it hurts us, especially at the defending end of the field.
“The key is to hold off the Tongan midfield because they are the ones that penetrate really quick and they have very good control of the ball. So we will try to keep the ball away from them and penetrate through their defence,” Lui said.
Local fans will be hoping for far more discipline from their team when they face Samoa.
Showing a lot of promise in the opening fifteen minutes against Tonga the hosts quickly fell apart conceding three goals, two of which came from penalties.
To make matters worse for the Cook Islands they will be without Grafton Potoru who received his marching orders for a serious foul late in the second half, and will therefore be suspended for the team’s second match.
Despite his team’s disciplinary issues, coach Alan Taylor remains optimistic ahead of their clash with Samoa.
“The attitude is important, discipline is important, they are young they are learning,” Taylor said.
“There are lots of positives after the first game and we can play a lot better.
“The morale of the team is fine, we lost the game but the effort was fantastic,” the Cook Islands coach insisted.
“The guys came away and just wanted to play again, on Saturday night they said ‘we can’t wait for Tuesday’, so the morale is fine. The guys will be up for it.”
Taylor is also aware that his team must beat Samoa to keep their qualification hopes alive.
“Samoa, they won their first game and we have to win both of our remaining games so it’s all on, it’s the second game and if you don’t win your second game it’s all over.”
Apart from extinguishing Cook Islands hopes, a win for Samoa would also put Valerio Raccuglia’s men on the verge of qualification.
However, there is a lot of hard work ahead for the Samoans to achieve their goal according to the coach.
Far from happy despite his side’s 3-0 win over American Samoa, Racugglia demanded more dedication and commitment from his players.
“We have to work on the heads of our players, there are too many people who don’t understand what we are doing,” he lamented.
The Samoa coach is preparing his side for a stern test against the hosts.
“I expect a different game tomorrow,” he said.
“Tomorrow will be the last chance for Cook Islands to qualify because if another result doesn’t go their way they are pretty much done, so they will be hungry tomorrow and we have to be ready.”
Tonga [TGA] vs. American Samoa [ASA]
Cook Islands, Rarotonga
Tuesday 29 May
Kick-off: 13h30 local
Referee: David YAREBOINEN [PNG]
Assistant Referee 1: Wase BAFINU [PNG]
Assistant Referee 2: Jeremy GARAE [VAN]
Fourth Official: Robinson BANGA [VAN]
Team List: 1. Semisi OTUKOLO (GK), 2. Petueli TOKOTAHA, 3. Sione TUIFANGALOKA, 4. Ofa KITE, 5. Tevita VAKATAPU, 6. Vai LUTU, 7. Tuia FALEPAPALANGI, 8. Kalakaua FAIVA’ILO, 9. Tevita KAU, 10. Mohammad RAJANI, 11. Viliami TUKIA, 12. Tevita SILI, 13. Opesi TU’IFANGALOKA, 14. Sione VA’ENUKU, 15. Meimeite SIALE, 16. Tellos KAUFUSI, 17. Atunaisa NAMOA, 18. Anthony LIKILIKI, 19. Setafano VAOMO’UNGA, 20. Sionela LUI (GK)
Coach: Soane MAILANGI [TGA]
Team List: 1. MJ FAOA-DANIELSON (GK), 2. Joseph COLLINS, 3. New Year VILLAR, 4. Walter PATI, 5. Chris FAAMOANA, 6. Milo TIATIA, 7. Kuresa TAGA’I, 8. Michael SETTLE, 9. Gabriel TAUMUA, 10. Darryl ULUFALE (GK), 11. Junior CHOI, 12. Roy LEDOUX, 13. Kato LASALO, 14. Misi MUSU, 15. Vaha TUA, 16. Mark TAGA’I, 17. Matthew TAGA’I, 18. Tuaki LATU
Coach: Tunoa LUI [SAM]
Cook Islands [COK] vs. Samoa [SAM]
Tuesday 29 May
Kick-off: 16h30 local
Referee: Kader ZITOUNI [TAH]
Assistant Referee 1: Marc SINYEUE [NCL]
Assistant Referee 2: Johnny NIABO [SOL]
Fourth Official: Ben AUKWAI [SOL]
Team List: 1. Kayne MATAPO (GK), 2. Manase UNUIA, 3. Sean IONA, 4. William NAPA, 5. Willynn KARIKA, 6. Lee HARMON, 7. James NAND, 8. Geosah GEORGE, 9. Conroy TIPUTOA, 10. Daryl AREAI, 12. Teokotai PAIO, 13. Finlay MUNRO (GK), 14. Parau ELLIS, 15. Temata KARIKA, 16. Graham VIKING, 17. Tumatangi TUMATANGI, 18. Tereapii MATAMAKI, 20. Manaariki PIERRE (GK)
Coach: Alan TAYLOR [ENG]
Team List: 1. Junior LOAU (GK), 2. Sean ATHERTON, 3. Matthew-Jas CASTRO, 4. Ioane ALE, 5. Jay POPESE, 6. Jefferson FAAMATAU, 7. Samuelu MALO, 8. Daniele SCARONI, 9. Laauli BLAKELOCK, 10. Stanley MAMEA, 11. Henry SMITH, 12. Peter FELISE, 13. Kawasaki SAOFAIGA, 14. Dilo TUMUA, 15. Paul FELISE, 16. Jeffery LEIATAUA, 17. Samu GALU TAUASA, 21. Osa SAVELIO (GK), 23. Darcy KNIGHT, 24. Harlen RUSSELL
Coach: Valerio RACUUGLIA [ITA]