Football | SPORTS

Off To World Cup

The Digicel Fijian Under-19 football side has secured a spot in next year’s FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Indonesia.
23 Sep 2022 10:26
Off To World Cup
Digicel Fijian Under-19 striker Nabil Begg (10) celebrates his goal against New Caledonia in the OFC U19 Championship at Stade Pater in Pirae, Tahiti, on September 22, 2022. Photo: OFC Media

The Digicel Fijian Under-19 football side has secured a spot in next year’s FIFA Un­der-20 World Cup in Indonesia.

The Samuela Navoce-captained side beat New Caledonia 1-0 in the first semi-final of the OFC U19 Championship at Stade Pater in Pi­rae, Tahiti, yesterday.

An emotional coach, Ronil Lal, said to qualify for the World Cup was a big boost for the country af­ter all the suffering from the pan­demic.

“This is for you (people of Fiji),” Lal said.

He said the win was made pos­sible through the hard work and he thanked the support of the Fiji Football and Government.

The second semi-final between New Zealand was going on when this edition went to press last night.

The two top teams from the OFC U19 Championship qualify for the 2023 FIFA U20 World Cup in Indo­nesia.

A disappointed New Caledonia coach, Rierre Wagoka, congratu­lated Fiji and wished them well for the World Cup.

“They’ll (Fiji) be representing Oceania and we’ll be watching them play,” he said.

After a scoreless first half, the match exploded into action in the second half. Digicel national foot­ball striker Nabil Begg volleyed in the crucial goal in the 75th minute.

Historically, Fiji have the better record in this tournament fixture,


winning six of the previous nine meetings. That record was reflected in a dominant first-half perfor­mance, with the Fijians having sev­eral chances to take the lead.

Melvin Mani was a constant threat and his free-kick was well saved by Wareen Hlupa within the opening two minutes.

However, Fiji’s best chance of the opening period came from the head of Mohammed Raheem. His tower­ing effort bounced up and onto the bar before being hooked off the line by the desperate defending of Ber­trand Katrawa.

Mani came close to breaking the deadlock on three more occasions in the first 45 minutes, including a smart turn and strike which was well saved by Hlupa on the brink of half-time. When these two sides last met at this competition in 2018 a 1-1 draw saw New Caledonia eliminate Fiji in the group stages. Four years on and New Caledonia looked far more likely to repeat that achieve­ment in the second-half.


Jymaël Upa, Paul Jone and Yan­nick Ipunesso all tested Fiji stopper Aydin Mustahib as they improved on their first-half showing.

But Fiji rode the wave and even­tually got the reward their perfor­mance deserved. Gulam Razool provided the assist with some daz­zling wide play, with Begg having the simple task of volleying in from close range for 1-0.

Fiji Football Association chief executive officer Mohammed Yu­suf said with the World Cup spot secured, the focus now was to win the OFC U19 Championship final on Saturday.

“The target is to beat New Zealand (if they make the final),” Yusuf said.

Yusuf indicated that once the team arrived, they would start planning for their World Cup preparations.

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