Melanesian quartet enter the fray

New Caledonia enter the action against Solomon Islands on Monday. Picture: OFC via Phototek

PAPE’ETE, 06 AUGUST 2018 (OFC) – Four of Oceania’s Melanesian nations will get their first taste of the OFC U-19 Championship when Group B gets underway at Stade Fautaua in Papeete, Tahiti on Monday.

New Caledonia and Solomon Islands will open the day’s action before Vanuatu take on Fiji in the evening match.

New Caledonia come into the competition hoping to replicate the success of the national U-17 squad who qualified for the nation’s first FIFA tournament when they made it to the semi-finals of the regional competition in February last year.

“We’re here with a young group that came in 2017 with the U-17 and we’re back here again with the U-19 national team,” coach Felix Tagawa said.

The Hienghene Sport coach and former international said the unity in the group is strong despite having a range of backgrounds in the squad.

“We have a good amount of diversity in our players – we have Caledonians, French, the game is mixed and we’ve been able to link the two groups well.

“We’re strong in attack, we’re potent and we’ll try to leverage that.”

Solomon Islands are renowned for their unpredictable talent though Batram Suri, another former international, has been working hard on harnessing that to create a strong collective.

“The boys have prepared well for this tournament. If you look in this competition, every country has its own gals and aims to achieve, that is, to qualify for the world cup – us too,” Suri said.

“To play against New Caledonia is always a challenge for us. They can beat us, we can beat them, but most times they beat us. We are here to challenge any team ahead of us, especially in our group.”

In the early evening Vanuatu, the 2016 OFC U-20 runners-up, will meet the 2015 champions Fiji in what will be a hotly contest confrontation.

With Vanuatu’s arrival in Tahiti delayed, Fiji take an advantage over their opponents.

But that doesn’t mean Fiji will take them any more lightly than usual, with coach Bal Reddy expecting Vanuatu to be a tough contender come Monday.

“I think Vanuatu has always been a real force in OFC. With all due respect to Vanuatu, I know they will be up there because they qualified for the last world cup. They’ve tasted victory once and they’ll be coming out fighting and I think they’ll be a good team to play with.”

Reddy also acknowledged his side has had a good build-up to their opening match thanks to a short tour of Australia ahead of their arrival in Tahiti.

“It was a good learning experience and good exposure for the boys. Being exposed to his level ahead of the tournament and having a friendly was a big asset to us.”

New Caledonia: 1. Une KECINE (GK), 2. Martin MAKAM, 4. Jean-Baptiste CAROINE, 5. Jules OMEI, 6. Kiam WANESSE, 7. Titouan RICHARD, 8. Cyril DRAWILO, 9. Jean-Jacques KATRAWA, 10. Pierre BAKO, 11. Vita LONGUE, 12. Armand HARPER, 13. Pierre WAWIA, 14. Paul GOPE-FENEPEJ, 15. Neil WAHIOBE, 16. Leonard MAKALU, 17. Georges WAKANAMUNE, 18. Raoul WENISSO, 19. Josua HLEMU, 20. Christopher YEIWENE (GK), 21. Lucas BITAUD

Coach : Felix TAGAWA (NCL)

Solomon Islands: 1. Joel NANAGO (GK), 2. George LEAGA, 3. John AETA, 4. Aengari GAGAME, 5. Absolom WAWANE, 6. Patrick TAROGA, 7. Junior DAVID, 8. Henly RAMO, 9. Ali MEKAWIR, 10. Marcus CHAN, 11. Lino HOUAIRIA, 12. Junior MATA (GK), 13. Junior ASHLEY, 14. Franck KABUI, 15. Anthony KASAU, 16. Don KEANA, 17. Tuita MAEOBIA, 18. William KOMASI, 19. Simon JEDZINI, 20. Raynick LAETA

Coach: Batram SURI (SOL).

More Stories