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Upaiga playing for pride

“I’m hugely excited, and I’m sure all the boys are, because it will be our first senior national event after a long time on our own soil,” the Hekari United player says.

“I am 100 per cent certain that our fans will be behind us in all of our matches and that will motivate us for sure.”

Upaiga is a stalwart of the national team and has already shown his willingness to put his body on the line with a fine performance in Papua New Guinea’s opening draw against the favoured New Caledonians.

While for many it may have been a shock win, it’s something Upaiga was confident in his side’s ability to cause an upset.

“For sure I think Papua New Guinea have a good chance here at the Nations Cup,” he says.

“We have chances to cause upsets in this competition if we stick together as a team and play together.”

The prestige of this tournament, which rolls around just once every four years, makes it particularly special for Upaiga.

Though 2012 was a disappointing campaign for him and his teammates, he says this time around the side is raring to put PNG football on the regional map.

“This competition means a lot to me because it is the game that will determine if we will continue our journey to qualify for the World Cup,” he says.

“I believe in the squad, we have a lot of experience as well as some young and energetic players.

“Much of the boys from the squad are from Lae City Dwellers or Hekari United who both did well in the recent OFC Champions League in New Zealand.

“I have a positive feeling that we will take Papua New Guinea to the next level of football.”

Story courtesy of OFC. For more on OFC Nations Cup 2016 visit www.oceaniafootball.com

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