A team from Tonga has never qualified for the Oceania Champions League Group Stage since the qualifiers were introduced, but Lotoha’apai United could be the first one. In their way stands Kiwi FC from Samoa.
“Tomorrow’s game will be the most important game for us in this competition here in the Cook Islands and we will play hard because a win will be good for Tonga football,” Lotoha’apai coach Lui Muavesi tells the OFC.
Muavesi knows a draw will be enough for the Tongan outfit due to their superior goal difference, but he denies they are going to play for that.
“We are in a good position as a win or a draw is enough to qualify but we are not going for the draw, we want to win to become the number two team and qualify for the second round.
“It’s a do-or-die match and we have to play hard so we will play until the end of the final whistle,” he says.
Kiwi looking for another group stage appearance
His counterpart at Kiwi FC, Martin Tamasese, knows his team is in for a fight and that they need to avoid the same problems they had in their game against Pago Youth.
“This is the most important game for us because if we win we qualify but if lose we will it’s over and that’s the reason why we are preparing hard and work on some of the problems our players and our team faced during our last game against Pago Youth from American Samoa.
“I’ve seen Lotoha’apai playing, they play really well but I know our boys can manage to give a good game against Lotoha’apai,” he tells OFC.
Should Kiwi FC be the team coming out on top they will be at the group stage for the third time, their last appearance was in 2016 where they got knocked out without winning a single game.
In the final match of the qualifying stage, Pago Youth will take on hosts Tupapa Maraerenga. The American Samoan team will look to take their first win of the campaign, and maybe even avoid finishing at the bottom of the table. As for the Cook Islands hosts, they are through to the group stage but would like to really rubber stamp it by winning the group comfortably.
The first match between Lotha’apai and Kiwi kicks off at 14.30 Cook Islands time (1:30am tonight CET), while the second match kicks off at 17.30 (04.30am CET).