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‘We respect Papua New Guinea’ – Ravinesh Kumar

Keen to downplay their favourites tag, Fiji U-20 coach Ravinesh Kumar believes Papua New Guinea present a big obstacle to his team’s FIFA U-20 World Cup dreams.

Ravinesh Kumar Credit: OFC Media/Avikash Chand

Two wins from two, six goals for and none conceded mean maximum points and a perfect campaign to date for Fiji but Kumar is quick to squash any thoughts of taking Papua New Guinea lightly.

“Papua New Guinea is still very much in contention for the OFC U-20 Championship and will be out to upset us.

“The challenge for us now is to maintain our consistency heading into a crucial encounter. If we succeed in winning it could bring us closer to achieving our dreams of playing at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand next year,” he says.

American Samoa dented Papua New Guinea’s own ambitions with an upset 1-1 draw that means the Wynton Rufer-coached side must now knock over the host nation to get its campaign back on an even keel.

Kumar says an ailing Papua New Guinea is still an opponent to be wary of.

“We have full respect for Papua New Guinea just like any other opponent we have faced in the OFC U-20 championship so far. I believe it will be a very good game,” Kumar says.

Fiji currently leads the standings with six points while Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea are just two points behind.

Boosting Fiji’s ambitions are the deadly goalscoring form of Sameula Nabenia and Antonio Tuivuna who lead the golden boot table with two strikes.

That could come in handy for Fiji who have never lost to Papua New Guinea at U-20 level in eight previous matches dating back to 16 November 1978.

Kumar says its important not to focus too intently on the head-to-head record between the two teams.

“Stats are meant for records and end of the day records are meant to be broken. What counts on the day is who wants the result, how badly they want it and how passionate they are,” he says.

One player in doubt for the match is impressive skipper Jale Dreloa.

Team management will make a late decision on whether Dreloa takes centre stage on Tuesday or rests ahead of potentially bigger matches to come.

The match kicks off at 2.30pm local time at ANZ Stadium in Suva and is available as a live stream from the official OFC YouTube channel.

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