Football

Battle Of The Giants: The Stakes Could Not Be Higher

The conditions became a total nightmare for the teams, who could do nothing more than launch long balls into the opposition half hoping defenders made mistakes – which they often did.
29 Jul 2019 16:48
Battle Of The Giants: The Stakes Could Not Be Higher
A water-logged, muddy Ratu Cakobau Park in Nausori on July 28, 2019. Photo: Simione Haravanua

As Ratu Cakobau Park morphed into a mud pool yesterday, organisers were forced to postpone the final pool matches of the Inkk Mobile Battle of the Giants tournament.

It was a decision the Fiji Football Association should probably have taken on Saturday when the worsening weather clearly started having a disruptive effect on the football.

But, despite the injury risk to players in muddy conditions and the dwindling crowd, FFA ignored calls for an earlier postponement and let the tournament continue.

The conditions became a total nightmare for the teams, who could do nothing more than launch long balls into the opposition half hoping defenders made mistakes – which they often did.

It came as a relief to both fans and players when the postponement was finally announced following a short inspection of the ground by FFA referee’s director Rakesh Varman.

The remaining four matches will now be played this Friday at the same venue, one day before the semi-finals begin.

Only Lautoka have confirmed a place in the knockout rounds, while Tavua have been eliminated, leaving all other teams with something to play for.

In this column, SUNsports outlines the significance of the remaining matches and what each team needs to do to qualify.

Match 1: Nasinu vs Nadi(1PM kick-off)

Both teams – with one and three points respectively – are still in the running for a place in the semis, although Nasinu’s path is slightly trickier.

Interim coach Tagi Vonolagi has done well to steer the side back into contention after they were demolished 4-0 by Lautoka on day one.

A win for the southerners will certainly boost their chances of reaching the next round.

But it may still not be enough if hosts Rewa get all three points along with a few goals against Lautoka.

Nadi, who can still top the group, will probably be safe with a draw, given their superior goal difference (+2) over Rewa (-4).

A win for them, however, will see the Westerners progress with already-through Lautoka regardless of other results.

Match 2: Labasa vs Tavua(3PM kick-off)

Labasa are in pole position to reach the next stage after a well-earned 2-0 win in extra-time over arch-rivals Ba on Saturday.

The Northerners know Tavua are coming to Nausori with nothing to play for, having already exited the competition after a brutal 8-1 defeat to Suva.

A draw should confirm their place in the next round but the Ronil Lal-coached side should win this one easily given how poor Tavua were against Suva.

Match 3: Rewa vs Lautoka(5PM kick-off)

It’s crunch time for the hosts.

They invested heavily in augmenting the squad with new players ahead of this tournament but have so far been disappointing.

Pita Rabo’s side looked to be heading for an early exit after losing 4-0 to a rampant Nadi on day one but have somehow clawed their way back into contention.

The bad news for them is that they face a Lautoka side yet to concede a goal in the tournament, while Rewa have only scored once in two matches.

Beat Lautoka and Rewa have a fair chance of making the semis (unless Nadi get a result against Nasinu).

It doesn’t get any tougher than this.

Match 4: Ba vs Suva (7PM kick-off)

On to the big one.

Traditional rivals Ba and Suva will conclude the day’s matches at a stage where the stakes could not be higher.

A win for the defending champions will see them progress, while Suva need a draw to confirm a place in the semi-finals.

Ba’s loss to Labasa, coupled with a timid 1-0 win over Tavua on day one, has increased pressure on the side to get a result against Suva.

They will feel hard-done-by after taking the lead against the northerners through a direct Avinesh Suwamy free-kick only to have referee Ravitesh Behari bafflingly disallow it for offside.

Suva will come to Nausori in a confident mood, on the back of an 8-1 win over Tavua in what was more of a training match for Kamal Swamy’s team.

The Southerners are the masters of their own fate. Keep their composure against Ba and it’s on to the next round.

Edited by Leone Cabenatabua

Feedback: sheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj

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