The Solomon Islands senior men’s team have been invited to take part in the Airmarine Cup in Malaysia.
The tournament, set to take place on March 20-23, is being organised by the Malaysian FA to try to bolster their FIFA rankings ahead of the next World Cup qualifiers.
President of the Solomon Islands Football Federation, William Lai, tells Football in Oceania:
“It will be a first ever kind of trip. We aspire to qualify for the 2026 World Cup, or, if there will be 48 teams, in 2022. It is an opportunity we cannot refuse as we attempt to slowly break into world football.”
It was originally thought that New Zealand would participate, but the Solomon Islands were invited instead when the Kiwis pulled out at the last minute, according to goal.com.
The other two teams in the tournament are Oman and Singapore, who sit 90th and 165th in the FIFA World Rankings.
Malaysia are number 167 in that ranking, with the Solomon Islands currently sitting in 143rd place.
Chinese Taipei match still on
The tournament will have its final matchday on March 23, when the winners and losers from the first game play each other.
That will be causing a little bit of a headache for the people selecting the team as it is only one day before the Solomon Islands will play Chinese Taipei in Taipei.
President Lai says it is unfortunate that they have two games so close to each other, but he believes the team will be able to overcome that hurdle.
“Chinese Taipei is very close to the last game for sure. Unfortunately, we confirmed Chinese Taipei before we were invited to this first-ever invitation tournament in Asia.
“We believe we can handle this as we will bring more players,” he explains.
Date set for Vanuatu clash
He believes the team can give a good account of themselves on this Asia tour and hopes the squad will get some recognition.
“We beat Macau in Macau Last year, 4-1. We are confident to express ourselves. It will give much-needed exposure to our young players as we have a talented young squad.”
March is now a very match-heavy month for the senior men’s team with another friendly against Vanuatu also scheduled to take place, this one in Honiara.
Lai says the date now has been set for that match.
“March 17, then 18 we travel to Malaysia. We are trying to win this tournament and also against Chinese Taipei,” Lai says.