With top honours on the line in both Group A and Group B, the stage is well and truly set for two fascinating encounters on Wednesday’s Match Day 3 of the inaugural OFC Youth Development Tournament at Korman Stadium.
UEFA representatives Estonia will face Tahiti to decide Group A supremacy in the day’s opening clash followed by another winner-takes-all encounter between Asian participants India and their group B rivals New Caledonia.
In their opening match of the tournament Estonia were pushed all the way by a determined Papua New Guinean side before claiming all three points thanks to a late equaliser that forced the tie into a penalty shoot-out and a tense victory.
The Europeans are likely to face an even sterner challenge against the Tahitians who recorded a well deserved, come-from-behind 2-1 win over Papua New Guinea in last Thursday’s opening Match Day.
Estonia coach Andres Opers has admitted his players will need to be more clinical in front of goal in order to overcome Tahiti and qualify for Saturday’s title decider.
“Sadly we wasted too many opportunities so it had to come to penalties but we could have closed the game much earlier,” he said.
We controlled the game quite well, sometimes at least, and we had plenty of opportunities to equalise much earlier and score some more goals, and luckily we got there in the end.’’
Despite Estonia’s inability to convert their attacking dominance into goals, Opers is adamant his side is on the right track.
“I was happy with what I saw and what my boys were doing. We have been together for four or five days now and they did a lot already what we practiced, so that was great to see,” he explained.
Keeping his cards close to his chest ahead of the Europeans’ decisive clash with Tahiti, Opers is not giving too much away regarding his game-plan.
“We saw Tahiti’s first game, we still have to sit down with our coaches and work out what are tactics going to be,” said the Estonia coach.
Meanwhile, his Tahitian counterpart Vatea Terai insists his side will need to be switched on from the outset if they want to compete with their European rivals.
The Tahiti coach is adamant his side can’t afford another nervous start which almost cost them against Papua New Guinea in their opener.
Terai also hopes the extra time to rest between their two matches will benefit his players.
“We had six days to prepare for Estonia. They are a big team so we will need to try and soldier on. We will do everything possible to be the best prepared for this match,” insisted the Tahitian coach. In Group B, both India and New Caledonia have produced impressive opening performances against hosts Vanuatu.
Despite wasting a number of good goalscoring opportunities the Asian representatives were in full control throughout their 1-0 win courtesy of their attractive, possession based style.
India coach Floyd Pinto has admitted it was even more important that his side found a way to break down Vanuatu’s resolute defence.
“Vanuatu were warmed up after playing their first game, they were well set to defend and not to concede so sometimes it’s very difficult to score against such a team,” Pinto explained.
“The team’s performance was really good and it was important to get three points. We have been playing well in previous matches but we haven’t been getting the three points that we needed.
“It’s a big confidence booster for us,” Pinto enthused.
The India coach is hoping a for similar performance against New Caledonia.
“It was very encouraging to see our guys maintain focus, maintain their rhythm, maintain the intensity, create chance after chance.
“The aim will be in the next game to repeat this performance and score more goals,” Pinto insisted.
“We are expecting a tougher challenge against New Caledonia and we are prepared for it.
“We will be playing our game, we are going to keep the ball and we are going to make tough for New Caledonia to get the ball away from us, we are going to create a lot of chances and hopefully in the next game we can score some more goals,” the India coach said.
Meanwhile, on the back of New Caledonia’s impressive 3-1 win over Vanuatu, coach Felix Tagawa couldn’t hide his delight with the way his players kicked off their campaign in Port Vila.
“Happy to start the competition with intensity, because Vanuatu put a lot of pressure on us in their counter-attacks,” he said.
“We were expecting that. It follows the philosophy of their Irish coach to play hard and physically. They could see that they were getting under our skin and the tackles were at the limit sometimes. We were able to hold on and put the goals in when we could,” the New Caledonia coach explained.
Tagawa believes India will pose an even tougher test and both himself and his players will need to come up with a new and fresh approach in order to rise to the challenge.
“There’ll be some changes, India is much more technical, they like to play with the ball. They’ll be looking to play passes, and the configuration will change for the game to adapt to our opponent,” said the coach.
Estonia vs Tahiti
Wednesday 21 August
Port Vila, Vanuatu
India vs New Caledonia
Wednesday 21 August
Port Vila, Vanuatu