Solomon Mamula up against OFC U20 favorites New Zealand this friday
In a match that will determine the might of the Solomon boys against a well prepared and exposed side, leading to a possible ticket to the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada from June 29-July 22, the Mamula players are adament of their chances to perform against their much rated opponents.
The official match schedule for the OFC U20 Men's Championship saw underdogs Samoa facing Fiji in the tournament's opening fixture at midday on friday. Other action on Match Day 1 will feature Tahiti and New Caledonia clash in a battle of the French-speaking associations at 2.30pm with the mouthwatering clash between hosts and tournament favourites New Zealand and Solomon Islands kicking off at 5.00pm rounding off the opening day's action. Vanuatu will receive a bye.
The tournament will see Fiji, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tahiti and Vanuatu play in a round-robin format with the group winner going forward to the FIFA Men's U20 World Cup in Canada.
Last week, the Solomon boys continued their preparations for the OFC Men's U20 Championship with a resounding 5-1 win over a local club side in New Zealand as fleet-footed striker Judd Molea and exciting defender Gibson Daudau ran amok. Solomon Island coach Airton Andrioli says he is optimistic of a good showing at Trusts Stadium with New Zealand. Earlier last wednesday, the Mamula side drew 1-1 with a touring Australian Schoolboys team at Waikaraka Park, Onehunga.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand side was further strengthened with All White and Fullham player, Chris James, joing the squad on Friday last week. The New Zealand squad also include other prominent players such as All White Jeremy Brockie, who was released by Sydney FC for the tournament. The squad also features three Kiwis who are playing college football in the US and the best young domestic talent from the New Zealand Football Championship.
However, it is understood that there is mounting pressure on the New Zealand camp, ahead of their game with the Solomons, as they comptemplate to make amends for their embarrassing performance in last year’s Oceania U-20 Championships where they suffered shock losses to Fiji and hosts, the Solomon Islands. Since then the side has showed improved form, securing New Zealand’s first series victory over the Young Socceroos in Australia in May last year. But NZ coach Jacobs admits they will be facing into the unknown when the seven team tournament gets under way this weekend.
The Solomon Islands will have much to live up to at this tournament after making it all the way to the final in 2005 before being beaten 3-0 by Australia. Solomon Islands defeated New Zealand on the way to that final appearance and will be conscious of a possible Kiwi backlash. But we can only wish our boys good luck in their matches over the next week.