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Fiji U20 wins opening game

Rashneel Kumar
Saturday, May 24, 2014

DESPITE the lacklustre second half display, the Vodafone Fiji under-20 side has made a significant progress to creating history.

The team yesterday defeated minnows American Samoa 4-0 in the Oceania Football Confederation U20 Championship at the ANZ Stadium in Suva.

The tournament which also has New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu is the qualifying event for the 2015 FIFA U20 World Cup in New Zealand.

If the Ravinesh Kumar-coached side wins the tournament, it will become the first national football side to play in the world event.

Despite the shaky start, Kumar is adamant the side will be in top form in the upcoming matches.

He said the players "panicked" from the overwhelming goalscoring opportunities they created in the match.

The Jale Dreloa-skippered Fiji started with lot of urgency and flooded the American Samoa goalmouth but were unsuccessful with their attempts.

Lanky Ba striker Saula Waqa broke the deadlock in the 15th minute of the play after slamming in a well-timed pass from Samuela Nabenia to lead 1-0.

Dreloa doubled the advantage nine minutes later before Antonio Tuivuna made it 3-0 in the 30th minute.

Hardworking Nabenia also got his name on the scoresheet after driving through the American Samoan defence to score in the 44th minute and give Fiji 4-0 lead at the break.

The visitors tightened their defence in the second spell and with a bit of luck, managed to counter the Fijian onslaught to avoid an embarrassing loss.

The national side played an attacking 3-5-2 formation to the defensive game of the American Samoans.

Fiji created numerous scoring opportunities later in the second spell but the players rushed through their chances and failed to extend the lead.

"This was the first game and the boys needed to settle down in the first game. First game is always tough regardless of which team you get. Win is a win, we are happy with three points," said coach Kumar.

"They are rushing a lot, they need to have lot of patience in front of the goal. I think they have taken a lot of pressure in terms of scoring goals that's why they panicked in front of goal."

In the other match yesterday Vanuatu beat New Caledonia 1-0.

Fiji will play tournament favourites New Caledonia tomorrow at 7.30pm.

Fiji - Shaneel Naidu, Praneel Naidu, Garish Prasad, Jale Dreloa (C), Antonio Tuivuna, Mohammed Khan, Setareki Hughes, Samuela Nabenia, Narend Rao, Saula Waqa, Al-taaf Sahib

American Samoa - Federick Maiava, Johnny Sione, Paul Collins, Paia Ipiniu, Sam Kome, Rueben Luvu (C), Rafael Rocha, Ryan Paaga, Sinisa Tua, Faiaai Kerisiano, David Alo

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