The men’s OFC Under 19 Championship is set to start tonight when the qualifying stage gets underway on the Cook Islands.
It’s yet another qualifier for the usual suspects, American Samoa, Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga, as they fight it out for the final spot in the OFC U19 Championship in Tahiti in August.
The winner will take a spot in Group A alongside hosts Tahiti, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
The first match, kicking off at 13:30 local time in Rarotonga, sees the two Samoa’s American Samoa and Samoa fight it out.
Samoa have been in training since the beginning of the year with several of the players making the transition from the U17 squad that played in the OFC U17 Championship last year.
“We started in January in Samoa, trained every day and then ten days ago we went to New Zealand. With the people coming from outside, we had a couple of good games. It was a good preparation very happy where we are at the moment,” Samoa’s Italian coach Valerio Raccuglia tells the OFC.
“Obviously we play to win and anything less than that is not good, but I just want to see the boys perform well, keep the discipline and the organisation and enjoy themselves as well. We are very quiet, but I think the boys know what we can do and hopeful we can perform on the pitch.”
Raccuglia’s American Samoan counterpart, Tunoa Lui, who is from Samoa himself, believes his side are underdogs in the first match.
“We know Samoa is strong, they’ve got a very good team, they’ve got a few off-island players, we just want to play our game and we’ll see from there, and hope our boys are gonna be up for it.”
The Samoan squad includes one player who plays high school football in the US and four New Zealand-based players.
In the other game, kicking off at 16:30 local time, hosts Cook Islands are taking on Tonga, who are looking to do something they rarely ever manage, by progressing to the competition proper.
“We have a vision and our goal is to try and win. We set our goal back in the beginning of March. We recalled and remembered all the tournaments, both your and senior level, where Tonga failed to qualify for the next stage. This is the team that could change that. This team had a good pathway, most of the players have been together since the 2009 Just Play programme in Tonga,” says Tonga coach Soane Mailangi.
The coach of the Cook Islands, Englishman Alan Taylor believes his young squad, which includes OFC Champions League player Lee Harmon, can do well.
“This is a fairly young squad, most of the players are 16 to 17, some just turning 18. “The players will get great experience from this tournament that will serve them and Cook Islands football well in the future,” Taylor tells the Cook Islands FA website.
“We don’t know anything about the opposition, but our players will do their very best and that is all we can ask.”
A good start is vital for everyone.
SQUAD LIST AS PROVIDED BY THE OFC
Team List: 1. MJ FAOA-DANIELSON, 2. Joseph COLLINS, 3. New Year VILLAR, 4. Walter PATI, 5. Walter PATI, 6. Milo TIATIA, 7.Kuresa TAGA’I, 8. Michael SETTLE, 9. Gabriel TAUMUA, 10. Darryl ULUFALE, 11. Darryl ULUFALE, 12. Roy LEDOUX, 13. Kato LASALO ,14. Misi MUSU, Vaha TUA, 16. Mark TAGA’I, 17.Matthew TAGA’I, 18. Tuaki LATU.
Coach: Tunoa LUI [SAM]
Team List: 1. Kayne MATAPO, 2. Manase UNUIA, 3. Sean IONA ,4. William NAPA, 5. Willynn KARIKA, 6.Lee HARMON, 7.James NAND, 8. Geosah GEORGE, 9.Conroy TIPUTOA, 10.Daryl AREAI, 11. Grafton POTORU, 12.Teokotai PAIO, 13.Finlay MUNRO, 14. Parau ELLIS, 15.Temata KARIKA, 16.Graham VIKING, 17.Tumatangi TUMATANGI, 18.Tereapii MATAMAKI, 20. Manaariki PIERRE.
Coach: Alan TAYLOR [ENG]
Team List: 1. Junior LOAU, 2.Sean ATHERTON, 3.Matthew-Jas CASTRO, 4.Ioane ALE, 5.Jay POPESE, 6.Jefferson FAAMATAU, 7. Samuelu MALO, 8. Daniele SCARONI, 9. Laauli BLAKELOCK, 10.Stanley MAMEA , 11. Henry SMITH, 12.Peter FELISE, 13.Kawasaki SAOFAIGA, 14.Dilo TUMUA, 15. Paul FELISE, 16. Jeffery LEIATAUA, 17.Samu GALU TAUASA, 21.Osa SAVELIO, 23.Darcy KNIGHT, 24. Harlen RUSSELL.
Coach: Valerio RACUUGLIA [ITA]
Team List: 1.Semisi OTUKOLO, 2.Petueli TOKOTAHA, 3.Sione TUIFANGALOKA, 4. Ofa KITE, 5. Tevita VAKATAPU, 6.Vai LUTU, 7.Tuia FALEPAPALANGI, 8.Kalakaua FAIVAILO, 9.Tevita KAU, 10.Mohammad RAJANI, 11. Viliami TUKIA, 12.Tevita SILI, 13. Opesi TU’IFANGALOKA, 14. Sione VAENUKU, 15. Meimeite SIALE, 16.Tellos KAUFUSI, 17. Atunaisa NAMOA, 18.Anthony LIKILIKI, 19.Setafano VAOMO’UNGA, 20.Sionela LUI.
Coach: Soane MAILANGI (TGA)