Both the Cook Islands and the Solomon Islands are looking forward to a hard-fought first match of the OFC World Cup Qualifiers.
The tournament is taking place in Qatar with kick-off less than 24 hours away, when the Cook Islands play the Solomon Islands at 17.00 local time.
Speaking to the media ahead of the first game, Cook Islands head coach Alan Taylor said he is pleased with how preparations has gone, for the team that hasn’t played a competitive match since 2015.
“We arrived six-seven days ago and it was the first time we’ve been together as a team. It took two or three days to get acclimatized and used to everybody. The sessions have been very good, very useful. The players have taken onboard the information and the system we’re going to use, and so far I’m pretty happy,” Taylor said.
Taylor, who has previously coached the Cook Islands 20 years ago, is familiar with their opponent.
“I’ve coached for the Cook Islands in the past and played against the Solomon Islands in the past, so I know what to expect in terms of their technical abilities. Im expecting fast, attacking football, but we got a plan for this and I think we’ll cope with this,” he said.
Asked what he thinks would be a success for the team, Taylor said:
“Success for this team is playing three games to the best of our abilities, competing well. I’m not predicting results at all, just playing to our maximum. Tomorrow will test the players abilities and character. I can probably give you a better answer after tomorrow’s game for the next two games. At the end of this tournament, if we come out being very competitive we can hold our heads high.”
His colleague, Felipe Vega-Arango of the Solomon Islands says he has no idea what to expect when his opponent lines up on the other half tomorrow.
But he denies there are any thoughts of an easy game in the Solomons camp.
“I don’t think too many people know too much about them. But I will treat them the same as I would New Zealand. I told this to the team, we have to be respectful to the teams. The game is as important as if we played New Zealand, Fiji or New Caledonia. We have to get three points and we need to work hard to accomplish that,” Vega-Arango said.
The Solomon Islanders have not had the best of preparations, the Spaniard admits.
“It has not been easy with the Covid situation in the Solomon Islands. We had to stop training for almost four weeks. Then we went to Queensland and they had the biggest rainfall in the history of the state, so we had to be in the hotel a lot, but so far so good. The players are working hard,” Vega Arango said.
Vanuatu and Tahiti will play in the second match of the group. That game kicks off at 20.00 local time in Qatar.