The Vanuatu Football Federation says the performance of their national under 20s team at the World Cup has set a benchmark for future generations to aspire to.
The Wantoks conceded in stoppage time to lose 3-2 against Mexico before a 7-0 thrashing by Venezuela — with both teams having since advanced to the quarter finals.
Bong Kalo also scored twice in a 3-2 defeat against European giants Germany.
Competing in their first ever World Cup tournament, Vanutu Football Federation CEO Albert Manaroto said the team proved they deserved their place.
“We knew that responsibility was also upon us and even throughout the campaign we kept reminding ourself we were an Oceania team not necessarily just the Vanuatu team but we also have a huge following in country — it’s the number one game — so the pressure was always there,” he said.
Manaroto said the Under 20s were their best prospects for the future.
“We got the feeling that our boys are let’s say coachable at that level, which is a good sign for us and which points out to the future and a lot of the development is to focus more on the grassroots level and upwards, and to the elite programs, to make sure we can have that flow of the type of players that we have in Vanuatu. Even though we have a small population I think that achievement was immense for us.”
Manaroto believed the World Cup squad could graduate to higher honours in the near future.
“The answer was quite clear that all players are national players, age doesn’t matter,” he said. “We may be seeing quite a few of them in the national team in the national team in the Mini Games — South Pacific Mini Games — which we host and I think the government is already making a commitment here.
“There’s a lot of talk now as to what should be achieved and there’s a lot of anticipation now as to how does Vanuatu intend to approach this, particularly after the World Cup.”
Manaroto said Vanuatu would select their strongest possible team for the Mini Games football competition and have confirmed an international friendly against Estonia in November to help their preparations.