PREPARATION ENDS

BY ELTON LONARATHA JNR

The Solomon Islands senior men’s national team concluded its preparation for the Nations Cup following three test matches against the national U19 team and a Telekom Super League (TSL) select side.

The team secured two victories against the national U19 team and drew with the TSL select side in the final test match at Lawson Tama Stadium yesterday. Interim coach Jacob Moli led the squad to a 3-0 win and a 1-0 win against the U19 team, which is preparing for the Oceania U19 Championship next month in Samoa.

In the final test match against the TSL select side, led by Solomon Warriors FC coach Franco Ne’e, both teams ended in a 1-1 draw. The match remained scoreless at halftime, but the TSL select side took the lead in the second half with a penalty conversion by Ben Fox. The national team equalized three minutes before full-time with a well-struck volley by Marlon Tahioa.

With these three test matches completed, the national team will focus on recovery before departing for Vanuatu on Monday afternoon. The team is progressing well, with overseas-based players expected to join them this weekend.

Rewa FC defender Leon Kofana joined the team yesterday but did not participate in the final test match due to compassionate reasons. National team striker Raphael Lea’i, who was recently announced as a new player for Adelaide City FC for the remainder of the season, will also join the team today. Additionally, Vanuatu-based players Atkin Kaua and Joses Nawo will meet the team upon their arrival in Vanuatu on Monday evening.

The Nations Cup 2024 will be held in Fiji and Vanuatu. Pool A matches will take place in Vanuatu, while Pool B matches will be held in Fiji. Following the last-minute withdrawal of New Caledonia from the tournament due to the current crisis in their country, Pool A will now include only three teams: Solomon Islands, New Zealand, and host Vanuatu. Pool B in Suva comprises Papua New Guinea, Tahiti, Samoa, and co-hosts Fiji. The top two teams from each group will advance to the semi-finals in Port Vila.

As the Solomon Islands team looks ahead to the Nations Cup, the recent test matches have provided valuable insights and momentum. With key players joining and the team’s strong performance in these preparatory games, they aim to make a significant impact in the upcoming tournament.

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