A physical and fiercely contested title decider is anticipated by the coaches of both Tonga and Samoa as these two evenly matched rivals face each other in a highly anticipated showdown to determine the winner of the OFC U-19 Championship Qualifier at the CIFA Academy in the Cook Islands.
With a ticket to the OFC U-19 Championship hosted by Tahiti later in the year on offer, the players in both camps are ready and prepared to leave nothing in the tank during the opening game of the third and final Match Day in Rarotonga.
In the later kick off, hosts Cook Islands and American Samoa are also motivated to end their campaigns on a high note.
While there will be plenty of local interest in Cook Islands’ final performance, most eyes will be glued to the top-of-the-table decider between Tonga and Samoa.
Neither sides have conceded a goal in their two previous victories, but with the Tongans scoring one more than their rivals, Soane Mailangi’s men have a significant advantage.
Due to their better goal difference a draw would be enough for them to create football history by becoming the first ever national team from Tonga to win a qualifying tournament.
Despite the added pressure, Mialangi insists his team is thriving on the challenge.
“To play with Samoa in the last game, this is the opportunity for us to win the tournament and to me it doesn’t matter if we draw or win but we are here to win the tournament,” the Tonga coach said.
“We are still working together for our vision to win the tournament, work together, work hard work on our unity all the time to make history for the Tongan Football Association.”
Spoilt for attacking talent, the Tongans have scored five goals in their opening two matches which is a poor return for the number of chances they created according to their coach.
Mailangi called on his troops to be more clinical in front of goal if they want to overcome a well organised Samoa team.
“Finishing must improve and we have been working together on scoring more goals,” he said.
Knowing that a draw is enough for his side, the Tonga coach admits his team will not take any unnecessary risks.
“Every game is going to be different and for me it depends on the condition of the game if we get the first goal we have to come back and protect our lead, just like I said, it depends on the game,” Mailangi said.
His Samoa counterpart Valerio Raccuglia has also been frustrated by his team’s inability to convert their opportunities in front of goal.
Like Tonga, the Samoans have showed impressive attacking flare going forward but lacked the killer instinct in their finishing.
“We are going to do a bit more work and hopefully Friday when we need it the goals will be going to come,” the Samoa coach explained.
Raccuglia insists Samoa play every match to win and his players are not daunted by the task ahead.
“It’s a match which probably both team wants to win so I think that will be enough to get the boys up.
“A draw is not enough for us so we want to win,” Raccuglia said.
“I don’t think we are going to change much, we just have to make sure we score an extra one more goal than them.”
With pride on the line, hosts Cook Islands and America Samoa will be both desperate to end their campaign on a winning note.
The two sides have been competitive in their previous two matches to force Tonga and Samoa work hard for their victories.
Following Cook Islands narrow 1-0 defeat to Samoa on Match Day 2 Cook Islands coach Alan Taylor admitted his players were devastated.
Leading up to their final match the mood in the camp is still somber but Taylor believes his players will be in the right frame of mind come the time for kick off.
“Still pretty down, this morning was pretty quiet and took us a while going but now we are starting to train and make them focus on the game between now and 4:30 tomorrow and we will be ready to go.
“It’s important for the players mainly because they have to feel what it’s like to win so they have to get themselves ready, motivate themselves and if they can do all that and win it’s very important for their own confidence and progression after this”, the Cook Islands coach said.
The hosts will also be determined to repay their passionate and vocal fans whose support had lifted the team’s spirit throughout the tournament.
“To the Cook Islands and the people who come and watch us play, we want them something to cheer about tomorrow at the end of the game,” Taylor said.
Finishing the tournament with a win is also a huge motivating factor for the young American Samoa team.
Despite their underdog status Tunoa Lui’s team played with passion, heart as well as considerable skill to show plenty of encouragement for future.
“We are trying to keep our team spirit and try to play to win this time because this is our last time.
“We came here to play and win a game and we are looking forward to this win,” the American Samoa coach insisted.
“It is important to our team, especially because we have a very young team and the majority of these boys will go to the U-16 tournament in Tonga in July so if we finish on a high note it will give them a good spirit to continue on that high note,” Lui said.
2018 OFC Championship Qualifier
Samoa [SAM] vs. Tonga [TGA]
Cook Islands, Rarotonga
Friday 1 June
Kick-off: 13h30 local
Referee: Cory MILLS [NZL]
Assistant Referee1: Johnny NIABO [SOL]
Assistant Referee 2: Edward COOK [NZL]
Fourth Official: Kader ZITOUNI [TAH]
VIDEO PREVIEW: bit.ly/2J4TCCR
Team List: 1. Junior LOAU, 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, 23. Darcy KNIGHT, 24. Harlen RUSSELL
Coach: Valerio RACCUGLIA [ITA]
Team List: 1. Semisi OTUKOLO, 2. Petueli TOKOTAHA, 3. Sione TUIFANGALOKA, 4. Ofa KITE, 5. Tevita VAKATAPU, 6. Vai LUTU, 7. Tuia FALEPAPALANGI, 8. Kalakaua FAIVAILO, 9. Tevita KAU, 10. Mohammad RAJANI, 11. Viliami TUKIA, 12. Tevita SILI, 13. Opesi TU’IFANGALOKA, 14. Sione VAENUKU, 15. Meimeite SIALE, 16. Tellos KAUFUSI, 17. Atunaisa NAMOA, 18. Anthony LIKILIKI, 19. Setafano VAOMO’UNGA, 20. Sionela LUI
Coach: Soane MAILANGI [TGA]
Cook Islands [COK] vs. American Samoa [ASA]
Friday 1 Jun
Kick-off: 16h30 local
Referee: Ben AUKWAI [SOL]
Assistant Referee1: Jeremy GARAE [VAN]
Assistant Referee 2: Wase BAFINU [PNG]
Fourth Official: David YAREBOINEN [PNG]
VIDEO PREVIEW :bit.ly/2LbXnXW
Team List: 1. Kayne MATAPO, 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, 11. Grafton POTORU, 12. Teokotai PAIO, 13. Finlay MUNRO, 14. Parau ELLIS, 15. Temata KARIKA, 16. Graham VIKING, 17. Tumatangi TUMATANGI, 18. Tereapii MATAMAKI, 20. Manaariki PIERRE
Coach: Alan TAYLOR [ENG]
Team List: 1. MJ FAOA-DANIELSON, 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, 11. Darryl ULUFALE, 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]