All To Play For
After the Vodafone Fijian Under-20’s historic 3-0 win over Honduras last Thursday, the debutants will be aiming to cause another upset against Uzbekistan in the FIFA U20 World Cup today.
Fiji bounced back from an 8-1 thrashing against Germany in their first pool match to upset Honduras and keep their hopes alive of progressing to the last 16.
Fijian goalkeeper Misiwane Nairube was the man of the match after denying Honduras a chance to score.
The 19-year-old said though their game today would be a tough one. He said they would go in with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
“The team is the most important thing and we did something extraordinary,” he said.
“We’re going to continue to give 100 per cent in our match against Uzbekistan. Can we pull off another upset? Who knows, but we’re certainly going to try.
“We’re incredibly proud of this win (because) it’s a realisation of an amazing dream. We left the pitch as winners, having given great pleasure to all the people watching us back home.”
Fiji will need to give it their all if they want to join Germany and Brazil who have already confirmed their spot in the last 16.
Uzbekistan will be fielding an experienced team, including seven players who were part of the team who won the 2012 AFC U16 Championship.
They have only progressed past the group stages in the FIFA U20 World Cup once in 2013 in Turkey and will aim to make their fourth appearance in the World Cup a memorable one. Fiji will be up against a side that follows the European style of play and Uzbekistan will be more organised, balanced and physically strong.
Despite Uzbekistan’s international record, Coach Ravshan Khaydarov, upon witnessing Fiji’s 3-0 win over Honduras, said their chance to make it into the last 16 looked very slim.
“After today (losing 3-0 to Germany on Thursday), and Fiji’s result against Honduras, our chances of getting through to the next round are slim, but we will keep working hard.” he said.
Vodafone Fijian U20 coach Frank Farina said they were ready to play Uzbekistan. “The morale is good and the boys are focussed,” he said.
“The side is injury free and will be out to create another piece of history by qualifying to the Round of 16. We will play our game and have our own strategies that we have been working on.”
With the high expectations for Fiji following its triumph over Honduras, Farina said this side would be a team to be reckoned with in years to come.
“We want to gain as much experience as possible for the years to come,” he said.
The Frank Farina-coached Vodafone Fijian U20 side will play Uzbekistan at 2pm today at the Northland Event Centre in Whangerei, New Zealand.