By CROFTON UTUKANA
Solomon Islands national U-23 men’s football team ultimate hope of reaching the grand final of the OFC Men's Olympic Qualifier competition will be known today as they take on Vanuatu in the second semis set for Lautoka, Fiji this afternoon.
Despite Vanuatu national side had an upper hand in terms of experience having been played in last FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea, Solympics head coach Batram Suri is optimistic he also had a crop of young talented players who can deliver the result he desired for.
"I understand most of them (Vanuatu players) played in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea so they have more experience and exposures playing international games,” Suri told OFC Media.
However he said he got most of the players that were built in the U-17 age group adding they have the guts to challenge their opponent today.
“ We've got most of our players that we've built up from the U-17 age group, so we also got few experienced players that came through our development pathway in the Solomon Islands and we've got speed, skills and technique, and the boys will be well prepared and will be fighting to be in the final," Suri insists.
Coach Suri also articulated that their last group matches against New Zealand in which they lost 4-2 was a ideal preparation for their semifinal clash against Vanuatu today.
"Our last game was a test of character for the players to prepare for the semi-finals and we did well against New Zealand, and even though we conceded four goals, we continued to fight and showed we are here to compete," he said.
Suri’s opposite number Etienne Mermer despite having a good number of experienced players featured in the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup says they will not underestimate the Solympics side.
He said they’ve watched the thrilling match between Solomon Islands and New Zealand and admitted that their opponent for the second semis today are fast and technically are good side.
The tactician added they knew what to expect from Soympics.
“They (Solympics) have a lot of quality on their team but we have also some players who can give them a good challenge and we will see what happens in the semis against them," Vanuatu’s head coach Etienne Mermer said during the post match interview with OFC Media.
"We know it's not easy. The tournament is tough, and the closer we are getting to the final stages the tougher and harder it will get for the boys.
"So we need to stay focus because in the semi-finals it won't be easy for anybody," he insists.
"I know the Solomon Islands will also try their best in the semis, so we will need to get the boys ready for this game.
"The more games we win, the more confident and comfortable we will and the further we want to go," he added.
Meanwhile, prior to the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu clash, hosts Fiji will take on New Zealand in their first semis today.