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The Waqan show

Manoj Kumar
Saturday, January 19, 2013

THE Fiji soccer team of the late 80s was one of the finest we have produced. The same can be said about the coach, the late Billy Singh. He was a master tactician.

1988, and we were preparing for the world cup qualifiers. Several matches were lined up in the lead-up to that historic 1-0 win over the Socceroos in Nadi.

Among them were three matches against the visiting Queensland State side.

Tactical approach

The first game was played in Lautoka and ended in a scoreless draw.

Singh opted for a defensive formation, playing the opposition only on counter-attacks.

Chances were few and far between with there being no breakthrough.

The second game, a night showdown in Suva, ended in a similar manner.

Again, the home team sizing up the opposition and not committing too many bodies forward.

The result, another nil-all tie.

The decider

Singh finally decided to take the game to the opposition in the final match at Nadi's Prince Charles Park.

The hot and humid conditions were in favour of the Fijians as they lined up with players like stopper Nasoni Buli, defenders Abraham Watkins, Pita Dau, Dan Lutumailagi and Lote Delai.

In mid-field were Meli Vuilabasa, Vimal Sami, Mukesh Chand with Rusiate Waqan, Freddy Evans and Ravuama Madigi adding firepower upfront.

Nadi ace

It turned out to be the Waqan show.

Fiji struck as early as the second minute, Nadi striker Waqan was fed by Nasinu's Shafique Ali and set off on a run, dribbling past some of the Aussies. He then set up Evans who smashed home for a 1-0 lead.

Just before half-time it was 2-0 as Waqan rose high to nod in a Vuilabasa free-kick. The header came off the base of the left hand post and went in.

An own goal by Watkins gave the visitors some hope but not for long. A few minutes from time, Waqan was at it again, this time setting up substitute Kolinio Tubuna for the third goal.

Fiji won 3-1.

Angry reaction

Queensland coach Bruce Stowell was unhappy with his team's performance and that of the local referee in the third match.

"I am concerned about the performance. I am not here to please the crowd."

As for the match official, Stowell said his control was "pathetic".

He was, however, praiseworthy of the Fijian effort.

"Fiji was a very fit and energetic side."

That they were and some months later went on to beat the Socceroos on the same ground.

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