Analysis | SPORTS

Vodafone Fiji FACT: Winners and Losers

Talking points from the weekend’s Vodafone Fiji FACT
07 May 2019 15:00
Vodafone Fiji FACT: Winners and Losers
Suva’s Iosefo Verevou (left) in action against Lautoka’s Zainal Ali during the Vodafone Fiji FACT at Churchill Park, Lautoka on May 5, 2019. Photo: Fiji FA Media

Analysis:

The pool stages of the Vodafone Fiji FACT are over but several important talking points re­main as attentions slowly turn to Saturday’s semi-finals.

Giants Lautoka, led by forwards Samuela Drudru and Bejamin To­tori, cruised into the knockout rounds and play neighbours Nadi in the first semi-final at Churchill Park.

The other match will see Ba take on arch-rivals Suva, who left it until their last game against Lautoka – a 1-1 draw on Sunday – to qualify.

Ba, Lautoka and Suva finished unbeaten in pool play and will look to build on that momentum, while Nadi, who only lost once, are the un­derdogs.

The eliminated teams, meanwhile, – Rewa, Nasinu, Tavua and Labasa – have some soul-searching to do be­fore the Vodafone Premier League resumes the following week.

Here‘s a look back at how each team faired at this year’s Fiji FACT:

BA IMPRESSIVE SO FAR

The Ronil Kumar-coached side has looked assured so far despite losing concentration to allow for a Nasinu fight-back that saw Saturday’s fix­ture end 2-2.

Saula Waqa, Malakai Tiwa, Ilimo­tama Jese, Darold Kakasi and Mana­sa Nawakula have been among the standout players for the westerners.

The team’s weakness, however, lies in the lack of mobility of their cen­tral midfielders, Narendra Rao and Tiwa.

Suva has the players to expose this area and will look to apply pressure on Ba’s error-prone backline.

But it will be far from straight­forward, given the potential of Ba forwards Abbu Zahid, Shazil Ali, Kaliova Dau and Saula Waqa to hurt any defence with their raw pace and technical ability.

LAUTOKA PLAYING LIKE CHAMPS

Arguably the best team of the tour­nament so far, Lautoka look like champions already.

The blistering form of Drudru and Totori has been central to their suc­cess, but there is more to the team than just their strikers.

Early victories against Tavua (8-2) and Labasa (2-1) meant the Kamal Swamy-coached side qualified for the semi-finals with one match to spare.

This gave them a bit of breathing room in their final match against Suva but the westerners stayed pro­fessional to see out a 1-1 draw.

Lautoka have at their disposal some of the best players in the coun­try and stopping them on Saturday will take some doing.

Midfielders Dave Radrigai and Zi­braaz Sahib have played with convic­tion, their hard work and movement in the centre of the pitch crucial to the team’s possession-based football.

But moments of defensive vulner­ability has seen the Sugar City Side concede four goals in their three pool matches, which Nadi would have noted.

Nadi’s best bet is to soak up pres­sure and hit their neighbours on the counter-attack through the hard-running Rusiate Matererega. But that is easier said than done.

SUVA HAVE THE MEANS BUT

LACK CONSISTENCY

The capital city team has had a mixed season so far.

They lie 5th in the Vodafone Pre­mier League with nine points after seven matches and would have been eliminated from the Fiji FACT had they lost to Lautoka.

Coach Saroj Kumar has spent less than a month with the team after taking over from Intiaz Khan, who resigned following a 2-1 home defeat to Labasa on April 7.

With players like top scorer Gaga­me Feni (5), Iosefo Verevou, Laisenia Raura and Christopher Wasasala (2), Suva should be able to beat any team.

But the story has been different so far and Kumar will be hoping to change that quickly to avoid suffer­ing Khan’s fate.

They reached the semis on the back of a 6-1 victory over Tavua and 1-1 draws against Labasa and Lautoka respectively.

A title-win at the FACT will make some amends for Suva’s poor form in the VPL.

It’s also a chance for the coach to endear himself to his boss, Suva president Ritesh Pratap.

NADI ARE THE UNDERDOGS

The jetsetters come into the semis knowing they have a mammoth task on their hands.

The Pranesh Amarsee-coached side bounced back from their open­ing day 3-0 defeat to Ba, before beat­ing Rewa 2-1 and drawing 1-1 with Nasinu.

Nadi will have to play an almost perfect game – in attack and in de­fence – if they stand a chance of top­pling their superior neighbours.

A lot will depend on how Amarsee approaches the fixture.

Lautoka like to play with the ball at their feet, combining accurate pass­ing with adept movement to chip away at their opponents,

Pivotal to this strategy is the posi­tional freedom given to Totori, who likes to drop deep and launch at­tacks from midfield despite starting as a striker.

If Amarsee finds a way to disrupt the supply line from Totori, perhaps by putting Ame Votoniu on him for 90 minutes, Nadi have a real chance of upsetting Lautoka.

Lautoka’s defence can also be shaky under the right pressure and that is where forwards Rusiate Ma­tererega and Tito Vodowaqa will have important roles to play.

WOEFUL TAVUA ONLY

MADE UP THE NUMBERS

Tavua were hands-down the worst team in the tournament.

They conceded a staggering 22 goals in games against Lautoka (8-2), Suva (6-1) and Labasa (8-1).

Granted, Tavua do not have the re­sources of the other teams in their pool. But the manner in which they simply gave up was embarrassing.

Tavua sit on 6th place in the league after winning three out of their nine games, including victories against Suva, Labasa and Rewa.

But this was the type of perfor­mance that makes you question whether Tavua deserve to be playing in the Super Premier division.

REWA SLUMP CONTINUES

Another poor showing by Rewa, who currently sit on last place in the VPL with only two wins from six matches.

The defending champions started the tournament brightly with a 3-0 win against Nasinu, before losing 2-1 to Nadi and 3-1 to Ba on the final day.

If Rewa’s current slump contin­ues, the prospect of relegation could slowly become a reality.

SHIVAM’S NASINU LACKS

TOURNAMENT EXPERIENCE

Nasinu’s 3-0 opening day loss to Rewa ultimately decided their fate, despite encouraging draws against Ba and Nadi.

Nathan Shivam’s team is in the top four of the VPL and that is where the focus is at the moment.

With players like Manasa Levaci, Savenaca Baledrokadroka, Jone Naraba and Joseph Mishra at Shi­vam’s disposal, Nasinu have a real chance of staying up.

LABASA GOOD ENOUGH

TO BE IN THE SEMIS

More was expected from the Anand Sami-coached side given the players at their disposal.

A 2-1 loss to Lautoka, coupled with a 1-1 draw with Suva and a, 8-1 win against Tavua, was not enough to se­cure qualification.

Edited by Osea Bola

Feedback: sheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj

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