|In 2008 Roy Krishna scored twice at Churchill Park in Lautoka to claim three points from New Zealand, Fiji are hoping to see history repeat on Saturday when they take on the All Whites in the first of two 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Qualifiers – OFC Stage 3 matches.
With New Zealand having already claimed four points from the first round of matches against New Caledonia, Fiji come into the fray with the goal of upsetting New Zealand’s run to the play-off with the winners of Group B.
The Bula Boys have welcomed members of the Rewa FC side back to home soil following their debut turn in the OFC Champions League and the final touches are being implemented under the watchful eye of new coach Christophe Gamel.
“I now have the whole squad. I gave rest to some players over the weekend which is important because some of them have played three games in a week. A full squad doesn’t mean I have the full quality,” he said.
“From now I just want to work well with them for the given days before Saturday.”
Gamel hopes to see a similar performance from Fiji to their last All Whites encounter at the 2016 OFC Nations Cup, where they chased every opportunity at goal rather than just trying to hold out the title winners for the full 90 minutes.
“I hope to develop the finishing. We might not have much action in front of goal on match day but I want them to play the game, enjoy the game – as it is a fantastic game – and not only defend,” he said.
After New Zealand’s dominant performance in regional competitions over the past year, coach Anthony Hudson is not underestimating his opponents but feels confident that the All Whites can continue their winning streak if they stay focused.
“We know Fiji are not going to be easy,” he said.
“We have played many times against the island teams and been consistent and now it is time to build on our last tour.”
Although the side holds some fresh faces, Hudson is confident that the new and experienced players have come together well and share the same determination to earn their spot in the final.
“We want to come away from this window and be heading straight into the final stages of the qualifiers. We are focused on nothing else.”
Fiji vs. New Zealand
Saturday 25 March
Referee: Norbert HAUATA (TAH)
Assistant Referee 1: Philippe REVEL (TAH)
Assistant Referee 2: Hilmon SESE (VAN)
Fourth Official: George TIME (SOL)
Vital Statistics: Fiji’s last victory against New Zealand in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match was in the second leg of their play-off in the 2008 OFC Nations Cup. Striker Roy Krishna found the net twice in the second half to secure a 2-0 victory for the Bula Boys.
The Players: New Zealand will be working hard to mark out Roy Krishna in their Stage 3 clashes with the Wellington Phoenix striker having long been a thorn in their side. With speed and accuracy on his side, Krishna was the first Fijian to score at a FIFA tournament while with Auckland City FC. He also found the net in Fiji’s 5-1 loss to Mexico at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Fiji’s only goal in the competition.
Coach Quote: “I’m confident my Bula Boys will be able to do it, they will be under pressure whether they can do it or not so we need the public to come and support the boys to put them in a good mood so that they can play well and I’m sure they will do their best and play to their full potential.”
Fiji: 1. Simione TAMANISAU (GK), 2. Avinesh SUWAMY, 3. Kavaia RAWAQA, 4. Dave RADRIGAI, 5. Laitia TUILAU, 6. Jone VESIKULA, 7. Epeli SAUKURU, 8. Setareki HUGHES, 9. Roy KRISHNA, 10. Samuela DRUDRU, 11. James HOYT, 12. REMUERU, 13. Josateki TAMUDU, 14. Rinal PRASAD, 15. Osea VAKATALESAU, 16. Peniame DROVA, 17. Kolinio SIVOKI, 18. Taniela WAQA, 19. Vereti DICKSON (GK), 20. Beniamino MATEINAQARA (GK).
Coach: Christophe GAMEL (FRA)
Vital Statistics: New Zealand last faced Fiji in the 2016 OFC Nations Cup. The Kiwis dominated the Fijians 3-1 with goals from captain Chris Wood, Rory Fallon and Themistoklis Tzimopoulos securing New Zealand their first three points in the group stage of the competition.
The Players: Fiji will be keeping a wary eye on Themistoklis Tzimopoulos after the defender surprised the crowd at Sir John Guise Stadium by scoring the opening goal against Fiji in last year’s OFC Nations Cup. Tzimopoulos was quick to react after a Chris Wood attempt was saved by Fiji goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau, sending the deflected ball past the keeper and into the back of the net.
Coach Quote: “We have got a good squad, we are adaptable and we have enough in this squad to deal with this tour so we are prepared. We’re always prepared.”
New Zealand: 1. Stefan MARINOVIC (GK), 3. Deklan WYNNE 4. Themistoklis TZIMOPOULOS 5. Michael BOXALL 6. Bill TUILOMA, 7. Dane INGHAM, 8. Michael MCGLINCHEY, 9. Christopher WOOD, 10. Shane SMELTZ, 11. Marco ROJAS, 12. Glen MOSS (GK), 13. Alex RUFER, 14. Ryan THOMAS, 15. Clayton LEWIS, 16. Samuel BROTHERTON, 17. Thomas DOYLE, 18. Kip COLVEY, 19. Moses DYER, 20. Tommy SMITH, 21. Jai INGHAM, 22. Andrew DURANTE, 23. Tamati WILLIAMS (GK).
Coach: Anthony Hudson (ENG)