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Our Reps Lose Semi

The Vodafone Fijian Under-16 national team bowed out of a chance to play in the FIFA U17 World Cup in Peru next year. This was after the team lost 1-3
20 Sep 2018 10:00
Our Reps Lose Semi
Vodafone Fijian football U16 side disappointed after their 1-3 loss against Solomon Islands during the OFC U16 championship at Lawson Tama Stadium on September 19, 2018. Photo: OFC

The Vodafone Fijian Under-16 national team bowed out of a chance to play in the FIFA U17 World Cup in Peru next year.

This was after the team lost 1-3 in the semifinal to Solomon Islands at Law­son Tama Stadium in Ho­niara yesterday.

Solomon Islands and New Zealand will play in Peru after being the top teams from Oceania.

New Zealand beat Tahiti 4-1 in the second semifinal yesterday.

Obviously disappointed his side won’t be heading to Peru, Coach Yogendra Dutt still praised the journey his side has taken to get this far.

“What I have learned throughout my career is one thing is winning, and anoth­er is satisfaction,” he said.

“We are really satisfied by the performance given by the boys. This is what they could do, this is how far they have come.

“We are pleased and proud of the performance and I know that in the future these boys will become a big force if they can stay together.”

Dutt admits conceding within the first minute of the match definitely made things more difficult than they had hoped.

“We could say we gave the two games away, it was very easy. It’s international foot­ball and a semi-final too. Coming back is a really dif­ficult task.

“We managed to pull one back and all things were going well until that third goal.”

Solomon Islands coach Stanley Waita was delighted after the final whistle.

“We’ve been waiting for this moment,” Waita said.

“This is the day the coun­try is waiting for – we’re through to the World Cup.”

Solomon Islands got off to a dream start when Charles Mani scored 45 seconds after the kick-off, in what has to be a record for this competi­tion, with a low drive.

Conceding so soon rattled Fiji and it took a fair while for the team to settle into the game as Solomon Islands controlled the action keep­ing Fiji contained in their half, and making sure goal­keeper Isikela Sevanaia was kept busy.

Fiji had hoped to man-mark Solomon Islands marksman Raphael Le’ai out of the match with Thomas Dunn tasked with keeping the speedy goalscoring machine under wraps.

However Le’ai had other ideas and constantly pushed to try and lose his marker, managing to create some de­cent opportunities for him­self and his teammates.

Unfortunately for Fiji the focus on Le’ai left Mani free reign to roam the pen­alty area which meant when Le’ai’s 29th minute cross came in Mani was able to put it over the line with ease.

Solomon Islands’ domina­tion continued through the first half right up until the final moments when Nikhi Pillay broke through the defence and looped the ball over an advancing Davidson Makam to become the first player to score against Solo­mon Islands in this competi­tion.

That goal was what Fiji needed going into the second half as it gave them confi­dence against a side which had been running rings around them. With a couple of personnel changes, Fiji started looking more and more competitive forcing Makam and his backline to work a little harder than they’d needed to in the first period.

Both sides started to show signs of a long and arduous campaign as the clock ticked down but one man who never seems to tire still had enough in him to make his mark on the game.

Le’ai picked up the ball in­side the Fiji half, ran at goal with Mani drawing a defend­er one way before he went round the other and fired under a diving Sevanaia to bag his eighth goal of the competition.

“We were supposed to score early goals and we did, re­ally early maybe 50 seconds in. Then we sat back and allowed Fiji to have a bit of pressure on us,” Waita said.

OFC

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