Analysis: Fiji Focus On Ba FC

Ba’s progress hinges on the team’s ability to maintain discipline in high pressure situations, particularly in the second game against Vanuatu’s Golden Star.
19 Feb 2019 13:08
Analysis: Fiji Focus On Ba FC
The Ba football side in training at the Xavier College Grounds in Ba. Photo: Rohit Kumar

With Lautoka eliminated, the pressure on Ba to perform as the only Fijian team in the OFC Champions League has in­tensified.

The westerners begin their cam­paign against defending champions Team Wellington FC on February 23 at Vanuatu’s Korman Stadium.

How Ba approach this game will be interesting to note.

Will they open up and try match Wel­lington man-for-man across the pitch; or will they close-up-shop and play for a draw?

History shows Fijian teams have struggled against their New Zealand counterparts since the competition’s inception.

The huge gulf in experience, infra­structure and resources between Fi­jian and New Zealand clubs is a major factor when teams from the two coun­tries meet.

Ba beat Waitakere United 3-2 at home in 2012 the last time any Fijian team defeated a club from New Zea­land in the region’s top competition.

Since then, the results have been dis­astrous.

Ba was walloped 7-1 on aggregate over two matches (6-1, 0-1) the follow­ing year in the semifinal by a ram­pant Auckland City.

In 2014, Auckland beat Nadi 3-0 in pool play with a dominant perfor­mance at Lautoka’s Churchill Park; and last year, Lautoka lost in the final to Wellington 10-3 over two legs (6-0, 3-4).

The results make for grim read­ing and means Ba’s first encounter against Wellington has an ominous feel about it for the Fijians.

It doesn’t get any easier three days later when they meet host team Era­kor Golden Star, in a crucial match that could decide second place in Group C.

Ba’s final pool match is against Sa­moan champions Kiwi FC on March 1, by which time their chances of progression in the competition will become relatively clear.

Domestically this season, Ba re­mains unbeaten and sits atop the Vodafone Premier League standings with 7 points after wins against Suva and Nadi, and a draw against Labasa.

The Ronil-Kumar coached side also claimed the Champion vs Champion series earlier this year, beating Lauto­ka 3-1 on aggregate (0-1, 2-1) over two matches.

The results have given Ba momen­tum, while the signing of Moham­med Shazil and Ilimotama Jese last month, two players with Champions League experience, has added depth to the squad.

Lautoka’s surprise exit from the Champions League also offers lessons for Ba.

Indiscipline and poor defending cost Kamal Swamy’s team, who were aim­ing to win the competition this year after losing the final in 2018.

Similarly, the coaches will have to get the tactics right given the strength of Ba’s opposition, and the players at their disposal.

If not, then this year’s competition could once again end painfully for the Fijian teams.

Edited by Osea Bola


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