SOUTH PACIFIC GAMES - THE BIG KICK-OFF
SOUTH PACIFIC GAMES - THE BIG KICK-OFF
The XIII South Pacific Games - Samoa 2007 kicks off at J.S.Blatter Playing Field in Apia, Samoa today with two women's fixtures opening the event. Match One will see red-hot medal favourite Papua New Guinea take on fresh-faced American Samoa - the first time American Samoa has fielded a women's team on the international stage. Papua New Guinea - coached by Francis Moiyap - are heavily favoured to win the gold medal and seal an Olympic Games qualifying play-off against New Zealand with rangy striker Deslyn Siniu and tricky left winger Daisy Winas likely to provide American Samoa with a difficult afternoon.
Fiji begins their tournament against Cook Islands with Fiji coach Forouk Janeman playing down his team's chances of a medal. Star players Radilaite Marama and veteran Asena Ratu will be asked to run the show in a match many believe Fiji should win.
In the Men's competition the feature match will see a Francophone derby match between New Caledonia and Tahiti. The two French-speaking rivals will feature exceptional talent with New Caledonia's Pierre Wajoka coming up against Tahiti's Samuel Garcia - the former Bordeaux player. Missing from Tahiti's line-up is talismanic playmaker Naea Bennett, a big loss to the team from French-Polynesia.
Solomon Islands campaign gets underway against Oceania minnows American Samoa. Coach Airton Andrioli is quietly confident his team have hit their straps at the right time after a 1-1 draw with Hyundai A-League side Queensland Roar last week. American Samoa coach David Brand has problems after his number one choice goalkeeper missed a flight from Hawaii forcing Brand to opt for an inexperienced 17-year-old as a replacement.
Host nation Samoa will be looking to impress the home fans when they take on Alwyn Job's Vanuatu team. Samoa skipper Chris Cahill - brother of Australian international Tim Cahill - will be hoping the home team can cause something of an upset in this tournament opener. Vanuatu football is on a high after Tafea FC qualified for the O-League and the national U-12 team won the OFC U-12 Festival of Football and played at the Danone Cup in France recently. Victor Maleb will be seen as Vanuatu's main goal scoring threat.
Non-FIFA members Tuvalu will be looking to avoid a hiding on their return to the international stage with coach Toakai Puapua is happy to be at the South Pacific Games but may change his mind if Carlos Buzzetti's team continue their fine form with Roy Krishna and Osea Vakatalesau likely to show no mercy for the Tuvaluans.
SATURDAY 25 AUGUST, 2007 WOMEN'S FOOTBALL1230hrs (GMT-13) Papua New Guinea vs. American Samoa1230hrs (GMT-13) Fiji vs. Cook Islands
Pool APapua New Guinea American Samoa Fiji Cook Islands Solomon Islands
Pool BTonga New Caledonia Tahiti Samoa
SATURDAY 25 AUGUST, 2007 MEN'S FOOTBALL1500hrs (GMT-13) Solomon Islands vs. American Samoa1500hrs (GMT-13)
Tahiti vs. New Caledonia1800hrs (GMT-13)
Fiji vs. Tuvalu2030hrs (GMT-13)
Vanuatu vs. Samoa
Pool A Fiji Tahiti New Caledonia Cook Islands Tuvalu
Pool B American Samoa Samoa Tonga Solomon Islands Vanuatu
Extra Info MEN'S FOOTBALL The 2008 OFC Nations Cup and FIFA World Cup qualifying pathway begins at the XIII South Pacific Games Men's Football Tournament - Samoa 2007. The top three teams qualify for Stage Two in a round robin home and away tournament with New Zealand. The winner of Stage Two wins the 2008 OFC Nations Cup and qualifies for the FIFA Confederations Cup - South Africa 2009 and will also progress to Stage Three. Stage Three will see Oceania's representative play a home and away playoff against the 5th placed team in Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for a berth at the FIFA World Cup - South Africa 2010. WOMEN'S FOOTBALL The winner of the XIII South Pacific Games - Samoa 2007 Women's Football Tournament will progress to a two-match playoff against New Zealand for Oceania's qualifying berth at the Olympic Games - Beijing 2008.