VETERAN striker Benjamin Totori will captain Solomon Islands into today’s World Cup Qualifier match against the visiting Papua New Guinea (PNG) Kapuls.
Totori was given the honour following the absence of talisman Henry Fa’arodo, who will sit out the match on suspension.
The match this afternoon is expected to be tough and the Solomon Islands head coach Vega Arango Alonso is calling for 100 percent support from the home fans.
Given the Friday’s showdown to be first competitive match for the Spaniard, a loss and a draw in the last two friendlies against Fiji since taking charge less than two months ago, Arango Alonso has indicated more progress been shown by the home side in their preparation in the recent weeks.
“I think they are progressing every day a little bit,” he said.
“I think the Fiji trip was good so you can see how we are playing. You see the chemistry of the team and you also see the things we need to work on like the finishing. In Fiji we had a lot of chances and we couldn’t convert.”
He said the side are incredibly motivated to deliver for fans on home soil, but also to secure three points ahead of an equally important match in Port Moresby on Tuesday.
“At the moment, we have two matches with them, Friday (today) and Tuesday, and we have to get four points,” he explains.
“So, the match for us is simple, we have to win and get the three points because if you tie here and have to win there, it’s a lot harder.
“If you win here, you are putting pressure on the opposition so my only approach here is that we’ve got to win.”
Looking at the previous matches, it is predicted that Solomon Islands will highly likely start with Philip Mango guiding the two posts. Nelson Sale is expected to lead the defence alongside Hardis Aengari, Robert Laua and Joachim Waroi.
The midfield position has many optional players who are waiting to grab the opportunity since Fa’arodo will miss the game through suspension.
But according to recent stats, candidates that are highly likely to be fielded in the starting 11 are Jeffery Bule, Timothy Bakale, Jerry Donga and Micah Lea’alafa. The other likely candidates are James Naka, Gagame Feni, Atkin Kaua and Tigi Molea.
For the number nine position, Benjamin Totori has a chance of getting back his position in the starter’s list.
Despite having new inclusions, Arango Alonso appears content with the selection and the task now is to go out and deliver to put Solomon Islands strongly back in contention, gunning for the top spot.
Just like their opponents, Papua New Guinea have had to rebuild somewhat since the OFC Nations Cup, with coach Flemming Serritslev losing a large portion of his squad after the regional tournament.
“You’re very diplomatic when you say we’ve had ‘a few changes’, because we’ve actually lost 10 of our players – so it’s been many changes,” Serritslev said.
“Luckily the new players, the young players, they’ve adapted well to the playing style and philosophy we have with this team.”
Despite the personnel changes, Papua New Guinea have shown the depth of their talent as the young side adapted well to impress during the two World Cup Qualifier matches in June.
“They did very well in the match we had against Tahiti. They played well for the first 80 minutes but we run out of petrol in the last minutes there, and in Tahiti they did well and won against Tahiti for the first time in history.”
Serritlsev and his charges are now keen to get the ball rolling on Friday night as they look to book their place in the Stage 3 final with New Zealand.
“I think we have prepared very well for this match, and I am sure Solomon Islands can say the same.”
Neither of these sides will be relying on previous results when the match gets underway today, meaning fans can expect a lively, competitive encounter.
The game this afternoon will kick off 3pm at Lawson Tama Stadium.
Team List: 1. Phillip MANGO (GK), 2. Joachim WAROI, 3. Robert LAUA, 4. Nelson SALE, 5. Haddis AENGARI, 6. Jeffery BULE, 7. Jerry DONGA, 8. Timothy BAKALE, 9. Benjamin TOTORI, 10. Micah LEA’ALAFA, 11. Gagame FENI, 12. Zantas KABINI (GK), 13. Emmanuel POILA, 14. Thomas AMASIA, 15. John AETA, 16. Molea TIGI, 17. Atkin KAUA, 18. Obed OFEA, 19. Mathias IANI, 20. James NAKA, 21. Richard HIROMANA, 23. Richard RARAMO
Coach: Felipe VEGA ARANGO ALONSO (ESP)
Papua New Guinea
Team List: 2. Abel REDENUT, 3. Richard ALOIS, 4. Alwin KOMOLONG, 5. Felix KOMOLONG, 6. Patrick AISA, 7. Raymond GUNEMBA, 8. Michael FOSTER, 10. David BROWNE, 13. Roland BALA, 14. Emmanuel SIMON, 15. Phillip STEVEN, 16. Orbert BIKA, 17. Jacob SABUA, 19. Clement WILLIS, 21. Ila DAVID (GK), 22. Donavan MURRAY, 23. Ronald WARISAN (GK)
Coach: Flemming SERRITSLEV (DEN)