OFC: The Solomon Islands are hoping the pain of defeat will motivate them as they head into their second leg clash with Tahiti in Group B of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) third-stage of the 2018 FIFA Football World Cup RussiaTM Qualifiers.
With Tahiti securing all three points in the first meeting between the two Pacific rivals in their home match in Pape’ete, Solomon Islands is keen to turn the tables around this time round. The two national teams touched down in Honiara this afternoon ahead expected capacity crowd clash on Sunday.
Within hours of their arrival both teams were already in training with Tahiti looking to acclimatise to the Honiara’s infamous hot and humid conditions. With the wet season only a week old the transition could spell disaster for outsiders as night time rain is followed by a cooking sunny day.
However, this was not the biggest worry on the Franco-Polynesians’s minds with head coach, Ludovic Graugnar pointing out that the weight of the local support is cause for concern.
“Solomon Islands will surely have a reaction to the first result and I expect thousands of supports to be behind them and push them in this game. This will be a lot pressure for my team because I have a young team with me,” Graugnar says.
Nevertheless the Frenchmen is clear about the objective for his team and his players and the job outline is very simple.
“We must win the match because we have a lot of confidence from our last match in Tahiti. It is very important for our country to finish first in this group – our goal with our players is to finish first,” adds Graugnard.
Solomon Islands will be happy to have Benjamin Totori back with the team as the veteran striker did not make the trip to Tahiti after taking some personal time off. His return will give players more confidence about the team’s chances and the vastly experienced forward is expected to lead the charge.
On the other side, the injury concerns surrounding goalkeeper number one, Phillip Mango, is an issue of concern for Solomon Islands. With only Santus Kabini training this afternoon it is doubtful that Mango will take to the pitch on Sunday. A replacement goalkeeper is likely to be announced if Mango’s condition does not change within the next 24 hours.
For head coach, Moses Toata, the pressure will be something his players have to deal with playing in front of a demanding home crowd.
“There will be an element of pressure on us but I have trust in my players to do the job. There has been negative publicity around the team but we have to be focussed. We reviewed our game and understand what to expect in this match,” says Toata.
The match kicks off 3pm at Lawson Tama Stadium. TIckets are selling at $100 per head for grandstand and $20 for hillside standing.
– Source: OFC Media