It’s time for the group stages of the continental competition in Oceania and Football in Oceania brings you a small guide to the two first groups, being hosted in New Caledonia and Fiji. Some strong familiar faces and two teams making their debuts is what you have to look forward to.
Hienghène Sport (NEW CALEDONIA, HOST)
This is the hosts second time in the OCL, their first time was in 2017 when they failed to progress from a tough group. A 1-1 draw with Fiji’s Ba was followed up by a late defeat to New Zealand powerhouse Team Wellington, before they managed to win their final game against Puaikura from the Cook Islands to finish second in the group.
They were hosts back then as well, and with the format change since the last time they were in the O-League, they could very well take advantage of playing at home.
The New Caledonian Super Ligue champions have two big names in their squad in the shape of former Team Wellington defender Roy Kayara and veteran striker Bertrand Kai.
The pair have plenty of experience from both international and continental stage before and could prove vital in their attempt to get out of the group.
Player to watch: Bertrand Kai
Talent to watch (born 1996 or later): Anthony Kai
Malampa Revivors (VANUATU)
Another team who’s here for the second time is Ni-Vanuatu side Malampa. They ended last in their group in 2017 with 0 points and will look to do much better this season.
They’ve bolstered a quite young squad with two interesting Japanese players, Kohei Matsumoto and Yuki Otsuka.
Matsumoto has plenty of experience after previously playing for Auckland, Waitakere United and Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand Premiership as well as Rewa in Fiji, while midfielder Otsuka has previously been at Waitakere.
The biggest home name is centre back Joseph Iaruel who played for the U20 team at the World Cup in 2017 and has six caps for the senior Vanuatu team.
Player to watch: Kohei Matsumoto
Talent to watch: Joseph Iaruel
AS Tefana (TAHITI)
My favourites for the group win as they have bags of experience in this tournament. They’ve been to two semi finals in the last three OCL’s and were the losing finalists in 2012.
Centre midfielder Alvin Tehau is probably the biggest name in their squad. He has plenty of caps for Tahiti and played in the Confederations Cup in 2013.
This is also quite a young squad with four players born in this century and two born in 2002.
A quarter final is a must if the team is to be happy with their own performance.
Player to watch: Alvin Tehau
Talent to watch: Toriki Guyot
Toti City (PAPUA NEW GUINEA)
This will be Toti’s fifth appearance in the OCL. The team has changed name yet again for this iteration of the tournament.
They reached the quarter finals last year and that should be minimum this year too.
They have a strong squad of PNG-only players. Nigel Dabinyaba, the returned Raymond Gunemba and national team captain Michael Foster, as well as Ronald Warisan who should be the no.1 goalkeeper.
Player to watch: Raymond Gunemba
Talent to watch: Emmanuel Simongi
Lautoka FC (FIJI, HOST)
Last year’s finalist have strengthened since then, with Ni-Vanuatu’s biggest star, Bong Kalo and Daniel Allan who’s got experience in the NZ Premiership. Benjamin Totori has also stayed on since the last campaign
As for the local talent, Benimaino Mateinaqara is a good goalkeeper for this level, while David Radrigai can boss the middle off the park and Osea Vakatalesau is a man-mountain up top who will give every team big problems.
They are probably favourites for this group and a semi final appearance is a definite possibility.
Player to watch: Benjamin Totori
Talent to watch: Bong Kalo
AS Central Sport (TAHITI)
They were last in the OCL in 2017, where they ended second in their group.
They won the Tahitian league for the first time since 1985 last season and have now won it 21 times.
Cesar Castillo from Chile is their danger man up top. He scored three in four in the 2017 OCL.
There’s plenty of experienced Tahitian international players including veteran goalkeeper Mikael Roche.
Player to watch: Cesar Castillo
Talent to watch: Pierre Bako
Henderson Eels (SOLOMON ISLANDS)
Making their debut in the OCL after coming second in the S-League this season.
Not the most exciting squad in terms of names but some solid players, goalkeeper Desmond Tutu is the second choice for the national team and could prove vital for the Eels.
Not really sure what to except other than a team playing with no fear and giving it their all in their very first continental outing.
Player to watch: Boni Pride
Talent to watch: Desmond Tutu
Morobe Wawens (PAPUA NEW GUINEA)
The second debutants in this group were formed before the 2018 season in PNG so the club is as young and inexperienced as their players.
They were in dire financial troubles prior to the OCL and it was at one point unsure if they would be able to travel to Fiji, but in the end, it has all sorted itself out and they are ready to play.
There are plenty of former or current youth internationals in their squad and the majority of the players are under 25-years-old.
They lost their first match of the new season in the NSL 3-4 to Besta PNG United, so they didn’t have the best of preparations but it shows they can score goals.
Player to watch: Giwi Simon
Talent to watch: Kenneth Pilailo
The OFC Champions League kicks off tonight when Central Sport takes on Henderson Eels. You can watch all the OCL matches live on Mycujoo.