The two New Zealand representatives, Waitakere United and Auckland City, are in pole position as the first-placed team in their respective groups and Auckland in particular have a golden opportunity to secure a final berth as the business end of the campaign approaches. City need only a point from their challenging trip to Papua New Guinea to take on Hekari United while the hosts, who won the title in 2010, must earn all three to keep Group B alive going into the last round.
Group A is more open with Waitakere facing a real fight for top spot from Tahitian outfit Tefana and Fiji’s Ba. The Kiwis can do themselves a world of good by beating Ba away on Sunday – a result that would deal a fatal blow to the Men in Black’s chances – but a Ba win would throw the group wide open, making this clash one of the key fixtures of the season so far.
The other Group A game is just as important as it is a francophone derby – always fiercely contested affairs – and Tefana will need a good result against their New Caledonian counterparts Mont-Dore to keep the heat on the winners of the Ba-Waitakere meeting. Indeed, a win over Mont-Dore could even see Tefana sitting happily at the top of the group come the weekend’s end.
Much interest will therefore centre on Ba, a region hit hard by recent flooding in Fiji, on Sunday afternoon as Match Day 4 comes to a close. After a bright start both domestically and in the O-League, Waitakere have stuttered in recent weeks and suffered a damaging 3-0 loss to Tefana in Tahiti in the previous round. But they returned to form with a vital 3-1 victory over Team Wellington in the ASB Premiership last weekend – a match they simply had to win to stay in contention for next season’s O-League – and will fancy their chances against a Ba side they defeated 4-0 earlier in the campaign.
Coach Neil Emblen, who has had plenty on his hands recently due to his role with the New Zealand U-23 side, was pleased with the players’ response against Wellington and is confident of a strong showing in Fiji.
“They showed a lot of grit and determination which is what we were looking for,” he says. “We looked like a team hurting from some losses and wanted to show what we are really capable of. I think there’s more to come.”
Emblen admits the result against Tefana – a side Waitakere thumped 10-0 in the opening round – was a big disappointment and has few complaints about the outcome.
“We had set up more defensively than usual because we didn’t need to chase the game but then we fell to a sucker punch in the first minute,” he says. “Tefana were the better team on the night and deserved their win.”
It is somewhat of a surprise that Ba can still make the final as their hopes were expected to be dashed in the previous round. Without several key players due to suspension and having had their preparations severely disrupted by the flooding, few gave them a chance of taking something from their trip to Noumea to face Mont-Dore. But they emerged with a hard-fought 1-0 win and that result, coupled with Waitakere’s shock loss, has given them a ray of hope.
Coach Yogendra Dutt dedicated that victory to those affected by the flood and will be keen to give the people of Ba more to cheer about on Sunday. His chances of doing so have received a boost with the return of that suspended trio – Avinesh Suwamy, Isimeli Narisia and Malakai Tiwa – and the strong need for a win will mean his players won’t lack for motivation.
Tefana are in just as much need for a win and will be keen to take advantage of a Mont-Dore squad that has been hit hard by last-minute withdrawals. Defender Georges Wadenges is suspended while brothers Jean-Patrick and Loic Wakanumune, both defenders, and midfielder Olivier Dokunengo were included in the squad but did not board the plane for personal reasons.
Coach Percy Avock and the rest of his management term are urgently trying to organise replacements but, if they fail in that quest, Mont-Dore will be left with only 12 available players and no outfielders on the bench. As the last-placed side in the group, the New Caledonians have little to play for anyway but games against teams from fierce rivals Tahiti are always important and Avock will be desperate to add to the solitary point his charges have picked up thus far.
Like Waitakere, Auckland have the chance to confirm their place in the final but the equation is far more simple for Ramon Tribulietx’s men – pick up a draw or a win in Port Moresby and a spot in the final is theirs. The defending champions are yet to lose this season – either domestically or in the O-League – and the squad was strengthened even further recently with the signing of Ivan Ruiz, a Spanish midfielder who has top-class experience both in his homeland and abroad.
The return of regular custodian Jacob Spoonley from injury is also a boost but Tribulietx is still without fullback Ian Hogg, on trial in Sweden, and Argentinean striker Emiliano Tade, on compassionate leave due to a family illness. Ruiz made his debut in the 3-2 win over Hawke’s Bay United last weekend and Tribulietx is pleased to have welcomed a player of his quality into the fold.
“He’s very good at playing that last ball and, when you look at our style, that is probably one thing we miss sometimes,” Tribulietx says. “That last through ball isn’t always there when the games are very tight and hopefully he will bring that to the team.”
Ruiz and co will face a Hekari side without key figure Taniela Waqa – sent off in the previous round’s 2-0 win over Amicale – but chairman John Kapi Natto is in bullish mood ahead of the fixture.
“We have done it against Waitakere in previous years so there should be nothing stopping our players repeating that feat against Auckland,” he says. “This match is very crucial for the team. We must win or forget about the FIFA World Club Cup.”
Two sides already out of the running for that prestigious tournament – which the winner of the O-League qualifies for – meet each other in the other Group B match and have just pride to play for. Koloale welcome Vanuatu champions Amicale to the Solomon Islands on Saturday and, due to the result meaning little, the focus will centre instead on the six Solomon Islanders in the visitors’ squad. Of that talented group, the Koloale faithful will be particularly keen to check on the form of Alick Maemae, revered in his homeland for his prodigious skills.
2012 O-LEAGUE MATCH DAY 5 PREVIEW
This is the official preview of Match Day 5. Please note squads are subject to change.
Media wishing to attend any O-League match should contact the respective home club contact prior to match day. Media are encouraged to use these contacts for further specific information or clarification.
Tefana [TAH] vs. Mont-Dore [NCL]
Friday 2 March
Stade Loius Gavinet
Local kick-off: 7.30pm
Referee: Andrew ACHARI [FIJ]
Assistant referee 1: Paul AHUPU [TAH]
Assistant referee 2: Jimmy MAUHARA [TAH]
Fourth official: Kader ZITOUNI [TAH]
Tefana: 23. Xavier SAMIN [GK], 2. Stephane FAATIARAU, 3. Pierre KUGOGNE, 4. Luthy BOHL, 5. Georges WADENGES, 6. Heimano BOUREBARE, 10. Hiva KAMOISE, 11. Jean-Claude CHANG KOEI CHANG, 13. Stanley ATANI, 14. Manutea TAAE, 15. Lorenzo TEHAU, 16. Sebastien LABAYEN, 17. Roihau DEGAGE, 18. Tauraa MARMOUYET, 19. Alvin TEHAU, 20. Axel WILLIAMS, 24. David CHANG KOEI CHANG, 25. Leonce ROOMETUA [GK]
Coach: Laurent HEINIS
Mont-Dore: 1. Jean-Jacques WACHOU [GK], 3. Jacques WAMYTAN, 6. Olivier DOKUNENGO, 7. Patrick DIAIKE, 8. Kalaje GNIPATE, 10. Romain PAINBENI, 14. Steevens LONGUE, 15. Pascal KENON, 18. Jean-Marc HMALOKO, 19. Fabrice WACAPO, 20. Loic BESSIERES, 24. Yoann GERBET, 30. Athanase KAMODJI [GK]
Coach: Percy AVOCK
Tefana: Leon Tefau +689 784 852 or email@example.com
Mont-Dore: Roger Mourinet +687 783 728 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Koloale [SOL] vs. Amicale [VAN]
Saturday 3 March
Lawson Tama Stadium
Honiara, Solomon Islands
Local kick-off: 3pm
Referee: Nick WALDRON [NZL]
Assistant referee 1: Jackson NAMO [SOL]
Assistant referee 2: Pado HEBALA [SOL]
Fourth official: John SAOHU [SOL]
Koloale: 20. Shadrack RAMONI [GK], 2. Isreal KOTE FANAI, 3. Freddie KINI, 4. Cecil BURU, 5. Samson TAKAYAMA, 9. Benjamin TOTORI, 10. Ezra SALE, 11. Ian PAIA, 12. Gideon OMOKIRIO. 13. Lency SAENI, 14. Augustine SAMANI, 15. Mostyn BEUI, 16. James NAKA, 21. David LAFAI [GK], 23. Steven ANISI, 25. Francis LAFAI, 29. Abraham EKE, 30. Leonard OLEA
Coach: Jeffrey ALLEN
Amicale: 1. Ernest BONG [GK], 2. Rexley TARIVUTI, 3. Young PAUL, 4. Selwyn SESE ALA, 5. Richard ANISUA, 6. Nelson Sale KILIFA, 7. Jean-Robert YELOU, 9. Dereck MALAS, 10. Joachim WAROI, 11. Fenedy MASAUVAKALO, 13. Gibson DAUDAU, 14. Moffat DERAMOA, 15. Alphonse BONGNAIM, 17. Jean-Nako NAPRAPOL, 20. Chikau MANSALE [GK], 23. Samuela KAUTOGA, 26. Alick MAEMAE, 30. Pascal CHABOD
Coach: Luke EROI
Koloale: Jerry Kohia +677 748 8342 or email@example.com
Amicale: Harry Atisson +678 776 6332 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Hekari United [PNG] vs. Auckland City [NZL]
Saturday 3 March
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Local kick-off: 3pm
Referee: Gerald OIAKA [SOL]
Assistant referee 1: David CHARLES [PNG]
Assistant referee 2: Hilary ANI [PNG]
Fourth official: John KORIS [PNG]
Hekari United: 1. Leslie KALAI [GK], 2. Daniel JOE, 3. Ilatia TUILAU, 6. Samuel KINI, 7. Raymond GUNEMBA, 8. Maciu DUNADAMU, 9. Nigel DABINYABA, 10. Wira WAMA, 12. David MUTA, 13. Andrew LEPANI, 17. Kema JACK, 18. Eric KOMENG, 19. Koriak UPAIGA, 20. Godfrey BANIAU [GK], 21. Clifton AUMAE, 23. Ian YANUM, 24. Tonga ESIRA
Coach: Jerry ALLEN
Auckland City: 1. Jacob SPOONLEY [GK], 4. Riki VAN STEEDEN, 5. Angel BERLANGA, 7. James PRITCHETT, 8. David MULLIGAN, 9. Manel EXPOSITO, 10. Luis CORRALES, 12. Tamati WILLIAMS [GK], 13. Alex FENERIDIS, 14. Adam DICKINSON, 15. Ivan VICELICH, 16. Albert RIERA, 17. Adam McGEORGE, 19. Iwa SHAKER, 21. Ivan RUIZ, 22. Andrew MILNE, 23. Simon ARMS
Coach: Ramon TRIBULIETX
Hekari United: Henry Morabang +675 761 01910 or email@example.com
Auckland City: Gordon Glen Watson +64 21 066 0738 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ba [FIJ] vs. Waitakere United [NZL]
Sunday 4 March
Local kick-off: 3pm
Referee: Norbert HAUATA [TAH]
Assistant referee 1: Ravinesh KUMAR [FIJ]
Assistant referee 2: Rakesh CHANDRA [FIJ]
Fourth official: Mudaliar DINAMANI [FIJ]
Ba: 1. Jone RALULU [GK], 2. Avinesh SUWAMY, 3. Shalen LAL, 5. Ronil KUMAR, 6. Jone VESIKULA, 11. Alvin SINGH, 12. Remueru TEKIATE, 13. Kini VILIAME, 14. Isimeli NARESIA, 15. Rinal PRASAD, 16. Malakai TIWA, 17. Malakai KANAHEWE, 18. Laisenia RAURA, 22. Niumaia TAGI, 26. Marika MADIGI, 28. Jone SALAUNEUNE, 29. Osea VAKATALESAU, 30. Epeli CODRO [GK]
Coach: Yogendra DUTT
Waitakere United: 1. Danny ROBINSON [GK], 2. Jason ROWLEY, 3. Aaron SCOTT, 4. Tim MYERS, 6. Matt CUNNEEN, 8. Chris BALE, 10. Allan PEARCE, 11. Ross McKENZIE, 12. Roy KRISHNA, 15. Gagame FENI, 16. Neil EMBLEN, 17. Jake BUTLER, 20. Ryan DE VRIES, 22. Matthew UPTON [GK], 25. Sean LOVEMORE, 27. Ross HAVILAND, 30. Rory TURNER
Coach: Neil EMBLEN
Ba: Rishikendra Kumar +679 999 5540 or email@example.com
Waitakere United: Terry Maddaford +64 21 444 257 or firstname.lastname@example.org
This release is available at www.oceaniafootball.com