Soccer’s international tours

The Fiji Times editor-in-chief Fred Wesley. Picture: FILE

THE national soccer team flew out of the country yesterday, bound for the Philippines.

It’s interesting when you consider the impact international tours have had on rugby sevens for instance, and the value such teams have reaped off them in the long term.

It is encouraging to note the focus of our team now on set pieces and the general shift away from the old kick and chase pattern that had become ingrained in our game.

National coach Christophe Gamel has made no bones about the emphasis we should place on better structured soccer.

In keeping with that line of thought, we have to embrace change.

That isn’t going to be easy though with decades of playing the “traditional” soccer we have become used to.

So with this casting aside of the kick and chase style and the incorporation of better structure coupled with a willingness to keep possession longer and better organised goal scoring opportunities, are we set to see a resurgence in the sport here?

Surely fans will agree that winning soccer is important.

Perhaps it should now be about understanding the importance of incorporating structure to that winning factor.

So now we should look forward to seeing some structure in the free kicks and corner kicks when we face the Philippines side on Thursday.

As star striker Roy Krishna pointed out, while our opposition appear to be smaller in size, they play smart and fast football.

One way to beat the Philippines, he reckons, could be from better set pieces.

That is where we have the platform to use our advantage in height and weight.

It is about fixing our free kicks and polishing our attacks from corner kicks.

Gamel believes the opposition would be tough.

He wants the national side to focus on the first 20 minutes and try to absorb pressure.

Gamel said playing on artificial turf would benefit the opposition.

On the FIFA men’s world ranking dated March 15 this year, the Philippines sit on 122 while we are on 168.

Interestingly we are below our Pacific neighbours Papua New Guinea who are on 159, New Caledonia who are on 155 and Tahiti who are sitting on 153. The Solomon Islands are on 151.

Obviously the key to improving our position on the table is regular internationals.

Such tours are important for they provide more than just exposure for our players.

In the greater scheme of things, they provide impetus for the players to reach out to the stars so to speak.

They provide a vital platform that should encourage greater fan participation and player motivation.

The challenge though is for the governing body to be consistent and keep the momentum going. Fans and players want more internationals. Surely the positive roll-on effects are many. Go Fiji go.

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