BY ROMULUS HUTA
THE national under-19 soccer training squad is currently focussing on fitness as it prepares toward the Oceania Under-19 championship due to be held come August.
Head Coach Batram Suri told SunSPORTS last night that the 30-man team selected from the trials held in March are improving a lot through their intensive training sessions.
“The focus now is fitness.
“Since we started training weeks ago, the players have improved a lot in their fitness,” he explained.
Speaking of the importance of the qualifiers given it is still three months away; Suri is keen on keeping the 30-man training squad together until June.
“I will keep the 30-man team until June before downsizing it to the final 23 players.”
Suri added that all players must fight for spaces in the final 23.
“No one is guaranteed a place in the team as yet except for Marcus Chan, who comes from a professional academy in Spain, which is a bonus for us.
“The opportunity for other players to come in is also open given the other domestic competitions are coming up very soon such as the Honiara Football Association (HFA) league, the school leagues and so on.
“There are criteria which we have put in place regarding the selection for the final squad.
“The areas we are looking at are fitness, attitudes, techniques and tactic,” the former national soccer rep said.
The national under-19 trains three times a week – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the SIFF Academy.
“After naming the final squad, plans to engage the team in possible friendlies are in the pipeline because we desire to have the perfect preparation leading up into the qualifiers.
“But the focus now is to keep on shaping up the team. We will liaise with the SIFF office later regarding plans for the friendlies.”
The Oceania Under-19 Championship in Tahiti will run from August 5 to 18.
The competition serves as a qualifier for next year’s FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Poland where Oceania was given two qualification spots.
According to the draws for the Oceania qualifier, Solomon Islands was drawn in Pool B against Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia in an all Melanesian group stage showdown.
In Pool A are hosts Tahiti, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the winner of the stage one preliminary qualifiers which will be wrestled out by Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands and American Samoa next month.