(Photo Tongan captain Sione Tu’ifangaloka )

By Justin Akau’ola Tonga FA

After months of trials and selections, Tonga coach, Manu Tu’alau has put together a very interesting team set-up he believes will cause an upset at the OFC Futsal Nations Cup and will also benefit Tonga in the long run.

Tonga’s finalised squad is a combination of current National Futsal players, reselected National Futsal players and players that are set to make their debut in the tournament which starts at Auckland’s Bruce Pulman Arena tomorrow.

The squad includes 4 young players who represented Tonga in the OFC U-17 Championship in January.

(Tonga coach Manu Tu’alau)

The side will be led by 23-year-old Sione Tu’ifangaloka who is one of four players who were part of the team that competed in the OFC Futsal Nations Cup 2022 in Fiji last year.

Experienced striker, Hemaloto Polovili along with Pita ‘Uhatahi and Goalkeeper Semisi ‘Otukolo also return from last year’s squad.

The side lost 6-5 to Samoa in the Plate Play-Off during the last OFC Nations Cup where New Zealand was crowned Champion after a thrilling final against the Solomon Islands Kurukuru. Tonga is in the same pool as the host country and again with Fiji and Vanuatu.

Vai Lutu along with goalkeeper, Timote Fakasi’i’eiki has represented Tonga National Futsal in the past and has earned a reselection after showing great performance in this year’s TFA Futsal Cup.

‘Unaloto ‘Aho’s who was part of the Tonga Under 23 football side that competed in the 2023 OFC Olympic Qualifier last month has been added to Tu’alau’s squad along with Christopher Kefu who captained the Tonga Under 19 Men’s Team in the 2022 OFC U-19 Championship in Tahiti.

The talk of Tonga’s team has been around the four players who all represented Tonga in the 2023 OFC U-17 Championship. Maloni Manuolevao, ‘Atieli ‘Aho, ‘Uhila Tautua’a and the youngest in the team, Tevita Falepapalangi who turned 15 this year are young but have shown skills and strength that has convinced Manu Tu’alau they are more than ready to play in the tournament.

“We have four very young players in our squad but in the long run, Tonga Futsal will benefit from this idea though these young players have already shown that they can compete in the top-level Futsal competition because these young players play in the senior level competition in Tonga”. Tu’alau said.

Tonga kicks off its campaign against Fiji tomorrow.