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Kundus aim high in the opening match tomorrow when they face home side Solomon Islands

The former Socceroos coach impressed upon his players to keep their minds on the task of securing second spot in Group B which has Fiji, host Solomon Islands and the New Zealand All Whites.

Farina and the head of delegation John Kapi Natto said nothing was impossible and they had to play their best and then some to beat Fiji and Solomon Islands to ensure a semi-final spot.

Both men stressed at training yesterday that the players had a great opportunity to prove that PNG soccer had made significant progress since the last such tournament in 2002.

Flanker Wira Wama is the only injury concern for the opening match. Kapi Natto said they after their three wins and a draw in Brisbane during their lead-up matches, the PNG Kundus had good momentum and would provide good challenges to the other more fancied teams in the group.

Out of the eight sides set to do battle in the OFC Nations Cup, the All Whites are the clear favourites especially after there successful tour of the United States where they defeated Honduras 1-0 and drew with El Salvador 2-2.

Group A has the French-influenced New Caledonia, Samoa, Tahiti and Vanuatu all trying to keep their 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil hopes alive with the Melanesian sides tipped to figure prominently.

In an ominous sign, New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert has maintained same squad that travelled to the US last week. In contrast to the other Nations Cup teams, the majority of that squad is fully professional and includes the likes of Winston Reid, Tommy Smith, Chris Wood, Marco Rojas and Shane Smeltz, who are all playing at a high level in other parts of the world.

The strongest challenger to New Zealand’s crown is difficult to identify but the majority of the competing nations all harbour realistic hopes of a semi-final berth.
Samoa are the underdogs after earning their spot by winning stage one of World Cup qualifying as hosts in November but the other sides will all be disappointed to miss out on the top four and the place in stage three that would bring.

Fiji have secured some memorable results in World Cup qualifying in previous years – none more so than a remarkable 1-0 win over Australia in 1988 – and are looking to re-establish themselves as a dominant force after seeing their Pacific Island rivals make up ground in recent times.

New Caledonia are most definitely title contenders after winning gold as hosts of the 2011 Pacific Games while fellow francophones Tahiti are also a major threat. The Tahitians earned bronze at the Games in September and a batch of their players have momentum after being involved in Tefana’s march to the 2012 O-League final.

The Melanesian pair of Solomon Islands and Vanuatu make up the group of title aspirants and possess plenty of the flair and skill associated with players from those countries. The Bonitos – as the hosts are known by the locals – performed well in their last outing with a runners-up placing at the Games but will be under immense pressure to meet the expectations of their fanatical fans on home soil.

How they deal with that burden will be a key factor to their chances of success and coach Jacob Moli will be grateful in that regard for the support of Frenchman Laurent Papillon, a highly-qualified coach acting as technical advisor to the squad.

Vanuatu are also benefiting from a French connection with Christian Chosson on hand to assist head coach Percy Avock, who has no shortage of help with former international Kaison Maki and William Malas, the technical director for O-League representatives Amicale, joining him on the coaching staff.

The OFC Nations Cup kicks off on today at Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara with Samoa taking on Tahiti at 12pm local time and Vanuatu facing New Caledonia at 3pm local time.

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