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All Eyes On Qatar

Fiji, New Zealand and PNG on their preparations
10 Oct 2021 15:01
All Eyes On Qatar
Fijian football head coach Flemming Serritslev during training at Govind Park, Ba, early this year. Photo: Fiji FA Media

Fourteen of the 25 members of the national football squad for the Qatar World Cup qualifier in March have marched into camp at the Fiji Football Association Ba academy on Wednesday.

Yet to join them are the police officers and the six who are training in Labasa under the guidance of national assistant coach and Fiji FA development officer, Sanaila Bera.

For the national team to camp Fiji FA was given the green light from the Ministry of Health and Medical Service.

Head coach, Flemming Serritslev, is now focusing on honing passing skills and timing as non-contact sports have been slowed.

“We are still waiting for the release of the Police officers to join us in camp,” Serritslev said.

“Labasa players are training with Bera in the afternoons under the same programme.

“Until there is 80 per cent vaccination then they can all travel here.”

The squad will break camp on October 20, for players to take part in the Digicel Premier League.

“We hope that the Premier League will start at the end of October.

“We will go on to camp from the November 1 until 16. We are using the FIFA window for our training camp.

“This window has to be extended because we need 18 days. We are waiting for FIFA to tell Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) how this FIFA window will be extended for OFC.”

Full training squad that was announced in March: Akuila Mateisuva (Labasa FC), Lekima Gonerau (Labasa FC), Sitiveni Rakai (Labasa FC), Ilisoni Logaivau (Labasa FC), Ashnil Raju (Labasa FC), Abbu Zahid (Ba FC), Edward Aaron (Lautoka FC), Muni Shivam Naidu (Lautoka FC), Afraz Ali (Lautoka FC), Sairusi Nalaubu (Lautoka FC), Dave Radrigai (Lautoka FC), Beniamino Mateinaqara (Lautoka FC), Paulo Buke (Nadroga FC), Thomas Dunn (Navua FC), Inoke Turagalailai (Rewa FC), Patrick Joseph (Rewa FC), Anish Khem (Rewa FC), Setareki Hughes (Rewa FC), Tevita Waranivalu (Rewa FC), Kishan Sami (Rewa FC), Mohammed Alzaar (Rewa FC), Simione Nabenu (Suva FC), Remueru Tekiate (Suva FC), Filipe Baravilala (Suva FC), Christopher Wasasala (Suva FC), Joeli Ranitu (Suva FC), Semi Matalau (Suva FC).

NZ coach: Can’t waste time

The All Whites will return from the international football wilderness this weekend to belatedly start their campaign to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Qatar.

New Zealand, who have slid to 121st in the FIFA world rankings, will play 79th ranked Curaçao in Bahrain on Sunday morning (Fiji time), almost 700 days since Danny Hay last took charge of the senior national men’s team.

“I wish it wasn’t the case but this is really our start on the road to Qatar 2022. I wish we were saying it a couple of years ago, but with the hiatus we’ve had this is really the start of it,” Hay said.

“It’s been the best part of two years to see people like Bill Tuiloma, Michael Boxall, some of these senior players, Tommy Smith. It’s great to bring them in. Obviously we had a wonderful experience at the Olympics but to bring the full side together is bloody exciting.”

The OlyWhites made an historic run to the quarterfinals in Tokyo, before losing to hosts Japan on penalties.

The All Whites will also play tournament hosts Bahrain, ranked 91st, on Wednesday morning and Hay says it is a balancing act between giving players game time and getting results.

“We need to have a good long look at a number of players and see really who we want to move forward with. That’s why these windows are going to be critical.

“But at the same time we’ve been very, very open as a group. Gone are the days of New Zealand national teams just turning up to have a game and roll over to whatever the opposition may be.

“We’re here to win football matches now and that’s something that’s really important for the group because we know we’ve got the ability and capability to test anyone.”

There are five uncapped players in the New Zealand squad, with Hay unable to pick players from the A-League. Captain Winston Reid and key midfielder Ryan Thomas were also unavailable for personal reasons.

“It is an opportunity for the players who are here now to stake a claim. They literally cannot afford to waste a training session or a single minute in the game to show us what they’re capable of.”

The new players have little time to settle in.

“It’s almost a little bit like speed dating in some of these windows because you don’t get that long to actually work with the players,” Hay said.

“These new players that are coming in, whether they’re uncapped or some of the older senior players that have been brought into the environment, they are going to have to pick up stuff pretty damn quickly because we just don’t have that luxury of spending time on the training pitch to iron out any little deficiencies.”

Hay also has to manage the squad’s workload.

“That’s something that we’re working to plan around because obviously there’s only a two day break between the games and the conditions here are trying. It’s bloody warm…without a shadow of a doubt it’s tough conditions.

“But they’re conditions that all the players, every single player in the squad have been through. They’ve all played in the Islands before, very similar with the head and humidity.

“We’ll see how players pull up after the first game and then obviously make decisions off the back of that.”

Chris Wood expects to lead the All Whites side against Curaçao, despite picking up a knock in his last Premier League outing for Burnley.

“Seems alright. Got a good few days to work on it to make sure I’m right for Saturday. That’s why we’ve got good physios here so I should be alright,” Wood said.

The experienced striker played with a number of his new national teammates at the Tokyo Olympics and expects they will grasp the opportunity in the senior team.

“I’m sure the boys are more than capable of stepping up to the plate. I’ve seen enough in the Olympic campaign to know that the transition into the national team football isn’t going to be that much of a step up.

“I’m excited to see what they can do now, stepping up to men’s football, especially some of them who can…become proper men and proper players.”

Uncapped left back Dalton Wilkins has not made the trip to Bahrain after picking up an injury prior to the international window.

Fijian football head coach Flemming Serritslev during training at Govind Park, Ba, early this year. Photo: Fiji FA Media

Fijian football head coach Flemming Serritslev during training at Govind Park, Ba, early this year. Photo: Fiji FA Media

The Papua New Guinea Football Association has put a hold on the selection process in naming the final squad for international tournaments leading up to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar next year.

PNG Football Association Technical Director Paul Isorua said the process of selecting the team for the Kapuls has been suspended.

“This process has been put on hold as our president John Kapi Natto had to travel home with the body of his late mum to lay her to rest,” he said.

“With respect, we will await his return to Port Moresby next week whereby the media conference shall be organised to name the trimmed train on squad.”

Last month, PNGFA hosted an exhibition match for the two men’s train-on squads in Port Moresby.

Team Red coached by Bob Morris and Team Black coached by Erickson Komeng initially had a 30-men squad respectively and before the exhibition match, the teams were trimmed to 20-men respectively.

However, PNGFA is yet to make the announcement of the final Kapuls squad to participate in the Men’s Nations Cup which is said to be held in Fiji or New Zealand with dates yet to be announced.

  • Additional information from Radio New Zealand and Post Courier 

Feedback: leonec@fijisun.com.fj



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