The Solomon Islands are hoping the pain of defeat will motivate them as they head into their second leg clash with Tahiti in Group B of the OFC Stage 3 2018 FIFA Football World Cup RussiaTM Qualifiers on Sunday afternoon in Honiara.
With Tahiti securing all three points in the first meeting between the two Pacific rivals on Monday night in Papeete, Solomon Islands is keen to turn the tables around this time round. The two national teams touched down in Honiara yesterday afternoon ahead of the clash in front of an expected capacity crowd at Lawson Tama Stadium.
Within hours of their arrival both teams were already in training with Tahiti looking to acclimatise to the Honiara’s infamous hot and humid conditions. With the wet season only a week old the transition could spell disaster for outsiders as night time rain is often followed by a steaming sunny day.
However, this was not the biggest worry on the Franco-Polynesians’ minds with head coach, Ludovic Graugnard pointing out that the weight of the local support is cause for concern.
“Solomon Islands will surely have a reaction to the first result and I expect thousands of people to be behind them and push them in this game. This will be a lot pressure for my team because I have a young team with me,” Graugnard says.
Nevertheless the Frenchmen is clear about the objective for his team and the job he’s outlined to his players is very simple.
“We must win the match because we have a lot of confidence from our last match in Tahiti. It is very important for our country to finish first in this group,” adds Graugnard.
Tahiti will be without Tehau brothers Alvin and Jonathan due to work commitments leaving big boots to fill at both ends of the pitch. AS Central Sport striker Fred Tissot has been drafted into the squad but Graugnard can also call on the experience of Steevy Chong-Hue who came off the bench in Papeete.
Meanwhile, Solomon Islands are bolstered by the return of veteran striker Benjamin Totori who not make the trip to Tahiti after taking some personal time off. His return will give players more confidence about the team’s chances and the vastly experienced forward is expected to lead the charge for the locals.
However, the injury concerns surrounding first choice goalkeeper, Phillip Mango, have caused a headache for Solomon Islands coaching staff. Only Zantas Kabini trained yesterday with Mango ultimately replaced in the squad at the eleventh hour by Abraham Bird.
For Solomon Islands head coach, Moses Toata, home advantage also brings added pressure with local football fans infamously demanding of their national team.
“There will be an element of pressure on us but I have trust in my players to do the job. There has been negative publicity around the team but we have to be focussed. We reviewed our game and understand what to expect in this match,” says Toata.
The match kicks off 3:00pm Solomon Islands time at Lawson Tama Stadium.
Solomon Islands vs. Tahiti
Lawson Tama Stadium
Honiara, Solomon Islands
Sunday 13 November
Kick-off: 15h00 (local time)
Referee: Matthew CONGER (NZL)
Assistant Referee l: Simon LOUNT (NZL)
Assistant Referee 2: Tevita MAKASINI (TGA)
Fourth Official: Joel HOPKEN (VAN)
Vital Statistics: Solomon Islands have not lost to Tahiti at home in a FIFA World Cup qualifier drawing twice and winning the home match in Stage 3 of the 2012 FIFA World Cup cycle. They did, however suffer a 1-0 defeat to Tahiti in the semi-finals of the 2012 OFC Nations Cup in Honiara, with Tahiti going on to qualify for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.
The Players: Captain Henry Fa’arodo will play his 50th match for the Solomon Islands national team. Fa’arodo will be the first national player to reach the milestone.
Coach Quote: “It’s sometimes easier to play away from home as there a lot of pressure on the boys when we play in front of our home crowd.”
Solomon Islands: 1. Abraham BIRD (GK), 2. Haddis AENGARI, 3. Emmanuel POILA, 4. Michael BOSO, 5. Freddie KINI, 6. Michael SIRA, 7. Atkin KAUA, 8. Joses NAWO, 9. Benjamin TOTORI, 10. Tigi MOLEA, 11. Mathias IANI, 12. Zantas KABINI (GK), 13. James NAKA, 14. Moffat KILIFA, 15. Jerry DONGA, 16. Joachim WAROI, 17. Junior ALBERT, 18. Henry FA’ARODO (c), 19. Gibson DAUDAU, 20. Tuti TANITO, 21. Gagame FENI.
Coach: Moses TOATA (SOL)
Vital Statistics: Ludovic Graugnard handed debuts to four new players in their first leg against Solomon Islands on Monday and indicated he may yet have to use more uncapped players during the match in Honiara.
The Players: Steevy Chong-Hue is more than capable of filling absent teammate Alvin Tehau’s shoes against Solomon Islands, having proved his scoring ability at international level with the golden boot at the 2012 OFC Nations Cup.
Coach Quote: There could be 20,000 people in the crowd when we play and I think it’s sometimes difficult for young players to deal with that, but its mcuh easier having taken three points from the first match.
Tahiti: 1. Mikael ROCHE (GK), 2. Taumihau TIATIA, 3. Jay WARREN, 4. Matatia PAAMA, 5. Ricky AITAMAI, 6. Tunoa TAVAERAI, 9. Tauhiti KECK, 10. Teaonui TEHAU, 11. Sylvain GRAGLIA, 12. Mauarii TEHINA, 13. Steevy CHONG-HUE, 14. Manuarii HAUATA, 15. Heimano BOUREBARE, 16. Stevens HIRIGA (GK), 18. Tefai FAEHAU, 21. Fred TISSOT
Coach: Ludovic GRAUGNARD (FRA)