NATIONAL football team head coach Felipe Vega-Arango has named his final 21 players for the home and away FIFA World Cup qualifiers against New Zealand next month.
Speaking exclusively to Star Sports yesterday, the Spaniard said he has decided to make the final cut after weeks of rigorous training.
“I am happy with the way the players’ responding in training and today (yesterday) is the day they will know if they make the cut for the trip to New Zealand,” Vega-Arango stated.
“We are working on our game plan to approach the two games and the players selected are based on our system,” he added.
The Spaniard stressed that it was unfortunate to omit four wonderful players.
Players not making the trip to Aotearoa are veteran James Naka, Eugene Tekobi, Martin Rence and teenage centre forward Kennedy Watemae.
Speaking of Naka, Vega-Arango stated his lack of speed due to his age but Naka will continue training with the team as a backup for the home game.
“Naka won’t be travelling to New Zealand because we are going to play against a professional side and their pace is on another level.
“Right now he is kind of slow and his fitness level wasn’t great but if we could do well in New Zealand, we might use him at home.
“He is the only striker in the team who can actually hold the ball up with his back facing the opponent’s backline.
“He is the only striker who could do that because the other strikers are just runners,” he explained.
Asked the reason for leaving Tekobi out, Felipe said the Renbel Chiefs player doesn’t have the level of the other midfielders.
He stressed that Watemae is not ready for now but could be a great player for the future.
“Martin Rence he is not coming to New Zealand because I have nine defenders and I’m taking only eight.
“But he is going to be training with us because I might need him if we decided to change the system in defence,” he stated.
The final 21 players include 18 outfield players and three goal keepers.
Vega-Arango and co will leave the country in two weeks time on Sunday the 27th for Auckland.
Players name and club:
1. Philip Mango, Marist FC
2. Zantas Kabini , Marist FC
3. Desmond Tutu, KOSSA
4. Nelson Sale, Western United
5. Emmanuel Poila, Solomon Warriors
6. Haddis Aengari, Solomon Warriors
7. Richard Hiromana, Marist FC
8. Robert Laua, Marist FC
9. Michael Boso, Marist FC
10. Andrew Rarangia, Henderson Eels
11. Joses Nawo, Henderson Eels
12. Jeffery Bule, Marist FC
13. Atkin Kaua, Marist FC
14. Gagame Feni, Solomon Warriors
15. Timothy Bakale, Marist FC
16. Micah Lea’alafa, Auckland City (NZ)
17. Clifton Aumae, Henderson Eels
18. Jerry Donga, Solomon Warriors
19. Henry Fa’arodo, Marist FC
20. Benjamin Totori, Three Kings United (NZ)
21. Clement Baegeni, Henderson Eels
By SIMON ABANA