Fijian captain Mataiasi Toma knows more than most what it means to qualify for a FIFA U-20 World Cup and says his side are determined not to let the dream of successive qualifications slip away.
Toma was part of the Fijian side that, in New Zealand’s absence, clinched their first OFC U-20 title to make history by reaching a FIFA tournament.
He played in four of the five qualifiers, starting three of them, on the road to the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup but then frustratingly watched from the bench for all three games at the finals in New Zealand.
Those matches included another piece of history, as the tiny island nation stunned Honduras 3-0 in their second game.
The well-spoken young man doesn’t seem like one to dwell on any frustration but appears quietly confident of leading a team back to the final to achieve their aims as well as his.
That aim begins again in earnest on Tuesday with Fiji taking on group leaders New Caledonia.
“The boys are gearing up for the second game tomorrow against New Caledonia. We have to work hard and we have to come for all three points,” says the imposing defensive midfielder.
“For me, I want to go back to the World Cup. Last time we went to a World Cup, I didn’t get on the field so this time I want to qualify and to play. But first we have to work hard to try and get three points tomorrow.”
With Fiji also enjoying an Olympic debut, Toma says Fijian football is in a good space despite Saturday’s setback to his side a tense 1-0 defeat to the host nation in Port Vila.
“Development is going well in Fiji and the players are all learning a lot.”
A little timid in front of the camera, Toma didn’t shy away when asked if Fiji could still qualify for a second FIFA U-20 World Cup.
“Yeah. We can do it.”