By CARLOS ARUAFU
THE national under-16 side will take a shot at history when they meet archrivals Fiji in the first Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) U-16 Championship semi-final, which kicks off at 10am today at Lawson Tama.
The winner will secure a spot in next year’s under-17 FIFA World Cup in Peru, South America; the loser bows out.
Today’s match is so crucial for the country that Governor General Sir Frank Kabui, Prime Minister Rick Hou, Opposition leader Manasseh Maelanga, and City mayor Andrew Mua, will be all on the sideline cheering up the boys.
It’s a match we can’t afford to lose.
Head coach Stanley Waita knows this too well. He also understands the nation’s high expectation for the boys to seize the moment and deliver.
“I believe this is our time. We will go for it,” a confident Waita said.
“It’s a big game for us, but one that we have been aiming for from the beginning,” he added.
“It’s not going to be easy against a team like Fiji, but we will give everything at it.”
Waita’s words came at the back of the resounding victories the boys recorded against their three Pool A opponents.
The national side cruised past Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Vanuatu, scoring a total of 15 goals, without conceding once.
Like his coach, skipper Charles Mani is equally excited and optimistic.
“We understand how important this game is to our country,” Mani said yesterday.
“We want fans and supporters to come forward and give us the support,” he added.
The national side are equipped with fast paced and strong players who are determined to win today’s semi finals.
Alford Kanahanimae and Maxwell Keana will stand out as architects in the midfield, creating chances and dictating the game, while the bursting runs from Chris Satu and Steward Quanafia down the flanks will sure cause problems to their opponents.
Upfront are probably the most lethal strikers in the tournament - Raphael Lea’ai and Mani himself, who has great positioning sense and takes up spaces between defenders before exploiting their pace and make their runs.
The country has never qualified for any FIFA World Cup tournament in the outdoor code since independence in 1978.
Although the national futsal and beach soccer teams have appeared on the world stage at their respective FIFA World Cups, it remains a dream for the 11-a-side code.
So is this the moment we are waiting for?