It’s been six months since premier domestic league action took place in New Caledonia, but national men’s head coach Dominique Wacalie is banking on his side’s ability to ignore the obstacles being a key to their success at next month’s FIFA World Cup qualifying tournament.

New Caledonia competitions were put on hold in September last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing a rethink around preparations for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ OFC preliminary competition in Qatar.

Since the back end of November the national squad’s programme has involved three sessions a week, while eight matches were organised in lieu of club games to give players a chance to gain match fitness.

Wacalie said a lot of work has been put in to ensure his group are in the best shape possible come kick off against Fiji on March 18.

“The only way to describe what it’s been like for us without competitions is brutal,” Wacalie said.

“We started off with a large list of 58 players, seven of those were overseas meaning we had 51 local players to work with. It’s been high pressure stuff for us since the start.

“We had put our players through intense physical sessions, our staff gave up a lot of their time and I believe that we have done all we can to make up for lost time.”

Wacalie last week named his final squad which includes players from the local domestic league and competitions in Europe, with the latter joining the team in Qatar.

After opening their campaign against Fiji, New Caledonia will play Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.

Wacalie said he expects every match to be physically intense.

“I know it’s going to be tough, as we know every team’s value and their qualities,” Wacalie said.

“For the first match against Fiji we don’t want to put any extra pressure on ourselves, as we already know that winning the first match is an ideal start to a tournament.

“Getting off to a good start is essential for all teams in the competition.”