Solomon Islands will take on New Caledonia in Group B opening match of the OFC U-19 Championship at Stade Fautaua in Papeete, Tahiti on Tuesday.
It will be a crucial opener for both Melanesian countries in a tough group which include fellow Melanesians Vanuatu and Fiji.
Former Solomon Islands international Batram Suri who will be leading his country as a coach for the first time is confident ahead of the clash.
“After months of preparation now is the time to put all our efforts into action,” he said.
“I believe in the team and the work we have been doing leading up to this tournament.
“All the players know what is at stake against New Caledonia, so I am confident they will give 100 percent in the opening match.”
Suri and company have watched the game between New Zealand and hosts Tahiti in Group A and they’re well aware of how tough the competition is shaping up.
“We saw in the New Zealand and Tahiti opening group match what it’s like to compete in this level,” he explained.
“It was a closely contested match and I believe our game with New Caledonia tomorrow will follow the same pattern as we all are aiming to start the competition with a good result.
“Opening match in any tournament is always difficult, but I have told my boys to focus on our game plan and don’t let the pressure get into their head.”
Solomon Islands were so closed to qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup last year, Suri has been working vigorously to help this current U-19 side go one step better.
“The boys have prepared well for this tournament. If you look in this competition, every country has its own goals 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.”
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 and New Caledonia will open the day’s action at Stade Fautaua on Monday 6th August, 12pm Solomon Islands local time.
You can follow our facebook page facebook.com/solomonislandsfootball/ for live text update.