Tahiti are comfortably through to the semi-finals of the OFC U-16 Championship, but there remains a chance for Fiji, New Caledonia and Samoa to steal that second spot with a result in their final Group B match.
When Fiji and New Caledonia meet in Sunday’s opening encounter expect an exciting encounter with both teams needing three points from the match if they are to keep their hopes of continuing in the competition alive.
New Caledonia were left hugely disappointed by their 1-1 draw with Samoa after being unable to break down the organised full-team defensive block the Qualifier winners adopted.
In addition, the frustration at being unable to find the back of the net themselves left them vulnerable to counter attacks which is exactly the weakness that Samoa exploited.
Coach Leon Waitronyie said the opportunities were there for his side but they just weren’t accurate enough – something they absolutely need to improve on for Fiji.
“We really have to win if we want to make the semi-finals,” he said.
“The problem is that we’ll have to use all our resources to get it and if we happen to progress, it could then cost us in the semi-finals.”
Waitronyie had been counting on a result against Samoa that would at least allow them a certain level of comfort going into the final group game.
“We had hoped to win our second match to be a bit more comfortable, to work serenely for the match against Fiji,” he explained.
“Now it’s no longer goal difference, it’s win however possible and that’s it.”
In their own second match Fiji looked organised, controlled and in a good position to take it to Tahiti.
However one defensive lapse allowed their opponents to take the lead and then it was downhill for the Fijians from there as Tahiti started to dominate and eventually buried the match with two further goals.
While Fiji can get away with a draw against New Caledonia to progress, they’ll still be aiming for victory with anything less having the potential to open them up for trouble.
Coach Yogendra Dutt said New Caledonia will be as difficult an opponent as Tahiti was.
“We know what we would like to happen in that game but New Caledonia will also be a strong team,” he said.
In the final group match of the tournament Group B leaders Tahiti will play Samoa, another side who has one last chance to show their potential here in Honiara.
Knowing the qualities of New Caledonia, coach Martin Tamasese’s approach was to defend deep and then throw his best attackers – Jarvis Filimalale, Lotial Mano and Kawasaki Soafaiga – at the counter attack.
It’s a tactic that paid off as the defensive block frustrated their opponent and left them vulnerable on the turnover.
Tamasese approaches each match as required and it’s possible he’ll take a similar approach with Tahiti.
“We adjust and change the game plan for each of our matches here. Our plan was to defend and when we get the ball, counter attack.
“I know Tahiti are a good team, but I’m confident as well that my boys can handle it and give them a battle.”
For Hermann Aurentz each match has had positives and negatives, but overall he’s happy his side has earned two results which have left them comfortable going into the final group game.
“We’ll play our game which is what we’ve done since the first match,” Aurentz said.
“The staff and team prepare well for each adversary we’re about to face and we’ll try to give everyone in the team a run.
“We’ll try and take the three points so we can build our confidence ahead of the semi-finals.”