Solympics Beijing Olympic hopes face acid test against Vanuatu tonight
Solomon Islands has made light work of tournament minnows Cook Islands (11-0) and Papua New Guinea (6-1) but faces its first real test against Philemon John’s Vanuatu side that lost a bruising match with favourites New Zealand (0-2) on Monday.
Vanuatu must defeat Solomon Islands to retain any chance of qualifying for the Beijing Olympics – if Solomon Islands lose, then the road to Beijing will beckon for Stu Jacobs New Zealand side. A draw would almost certainly spell the end of the tournament for both teams unless Luke Eroi’s Solympics team beat New Zealand on Match Day 4.
Waitakere United striker Benjamin Totori has been in red-hot form helping himself to eight goals in just two matches and he will likely be a marked man as Vanuatu seek to keep its Olympic hopes alive.
Alick Maemae, Joses Nawo and Joachim Rande have also looked the part for Eroi but whether or not Solomon Islands defence can keep tabs on Jeffry Nimanian and Joseph Namariau remains to be seen.
In the first match for today, Cook Islands coach Tim Jerks will be hoping his team can bounce back from its 11-0 defeat to Solomon Islands to test a Fiji team desperate for goals.
Fiji’s only hope of qualifying for Beijing now is to win all its remaining matches by wide margins and hope both New Zealand and Solomon Islands drop points.
In the second match, New Zealand will face Papua New Guinea without Dan Keat after the former New Zealand U-20 captain was sent off after an altercation with Vanuatu’s Spencer Noal on Monday. Steven Old’s injury looks uncertain to mend in time with Stu Jacobs hinting that key players will be rested ahead of the looming showdown with Solomon Islands. Despite the loss of Dan Keat, the form guide suggests New Zealand should win comfortably against George Cowie’s team.
Match Day 3 matches in Fiji time
2.30pm Fiji vs. Cook Islands
5pm Papua New Guinea vs. New Zealand
7.30pm Solomon Islands vs. Vanuatu