Tue, 25 April 2017
Last Updated: Mon, 24 Apr 2017 10am
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Still in the mix with Oceania elites

SOLOMON Islands is a soccer mad nation but the recent trail of us knocking out of competitions in international matches has caused some fans to describe our representing football teams as under achievers.

However, I believe this is not the time for us to give up on our teams.

Solomon Islands has come a long way to where it is today, in fact today Solomon Islands is right in the mix with the Oceania’s elites during international tournaments.

Let us reflect on our soccer journey.

During recent Oceania outings, Solomon Islands either reached the semi-final or final stages.

This has been the trend since the days of our football “golden generation”.

In 2004 during the OFC Nations Cup we also reached the final in the Oceania World Cup qualifiers with a historic 2-2 draw with former Oceania heavy weights – Australia.

Honiara was in huge celebration during the team’s arrival after that competition.

This is a perfect example of how Solomon Islanders are proud of their football.

Just two games away from a place at Germany 2006, Solomon Islands lost the home and away two legged ties 9-1 on aggregate.

Most people will remember Australia’s last competitive appearance in Oceania was a narrow 2-1 win over Solomon Islands.

The islanders were knocked out of the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers having got off to a good start in every game in their qualifying group and comfortably progressing to the knockout rounds, defeats to New Caledonia and then to Vanuatu saw them knocked out of the competition.

In 2012, the 2012 OFC Nations Cup which was also the second round of World Cup qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup was played at home.

The nation’s hope of going a step forward after its best runners-up finish in 2014 saw them finished in fourth place after qualifying through to the semi-finals by defeating Papua New Guinea and having draws against Fiji and New Zealand.

A semi-final defeat to the champions Tahiti from a Jonathan Tehau goal ended the entire nation’s expectation for a first major crown on home soil.

They later lost to New Zealand in the third-place playoff.

The third round of World Cup qualifying saw the team finish bottom of the group after only taking one win against Tahiti.

Just last year, the country made its way out of a strong group with a win over Vanuatu and two defeats at the hands of Fiji and New Zealand in the OFC Nations Cup 2016 held in Port Moresby.

Despite a semi-final defeat at the hands of the hosts, Solomon Islands progressed to the OFC Stage 3 of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Qualifying rounds.

In November last year, Solomon Islands lost its away leg with Tahiti and won the return match to challenge Tahiti in the race for top spot in Group B.

Meanwhile, Tahiti moved three points clear at the top of Group B in OFC Stage 3 of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Qualifying after defeating 10-man PNG 3-1 on Thursday.

Solomon Islands sits on second spot with 3 points and it is crucial going into the two legged series with PNG this summer.

Another defeat for Flemming Serritslev and Co in the away leg with Tahiti will put them out of the race for top spot in Group B.

 Solomon Islands will host PNG at home on June 9 and away in Lae City few days later.

A training squad was revealed last week as preparation for the two big matches are set to start this month.

Like I said earlier, Solomon Islands football has come a long way to where it is today and what our teams need now is our support.

This is not the time to give up on our teams but a time to reinforce our support to give back momentum to our representing teams.

By SIMON ABANA

 


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