Tahiti may have come out victorious in the first leg of their 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Qualifier – OFC Stage 3 encounter against Papua New Guinea last week, but their opponents are keen to come back hard and fast in tomorrow’s return leg in Papeete.
Papua New Guinea were stung by the sending off of young attacker David Browne in the 22nd minute forcing them to play well over an hour of football with a man down.
Despite the disadvantage, the remaining ten players put in an outstanding shift to go a goal up, and were unlucky to see Tahiti knock three past them late in the game.
“We have shown we can play them and if we had been 11v11 I think it would have been a better game,” Papua New Guinea coach Flemming Serritslev said.
“Tahiti found where we were vulnerable and it now puts the onus on us to go to Papeete and win which will be difficult.”
It was a tough end to a match in which a new-look Kapuls had been keen to showcase their abilities and carry on the form which saw them through to the OFC Nations Cup final for the first time just under 12 months earlier.
“The attitude of the players was actually very good,” Serritslev said.
“Now we just have to raise them mentally again.”
On a positive note, Lae City Dwellers captain Raymond Gunemba will be making his international return after serving a suspension in the first leg, and his speed and ability to combine with Nigel Dabinyaba on attack will be difficult for Tahiti to contain.
Flemming is also pleased that Dabinyaba and captain Michael Foster are not suspended for the return match in Papeete. The Dane had thought the yellow cards they received were their second accumulated cautions, but all single cautions were wiped following the OFC Nations Cup.
For Tahiti, a win in their fourth and final Stage 3 group match should be enough to secure their place in the final against the winner of Group A.
However having experienced the grit and determination of their opponents in Port Moresby, coach Ludovic Graugnard knows they’ll be out to prove that with a full complement on the field they are no easy beat.
And he admitted his side needs to settle into the match much quicker if they want to earn a second victory.
“We weren’t particularly settled after the sending off in Port Moresby and that was evident in our game,” Graugnard explained.
“I said to the assistant coach that if PNG score it will be from a rapid counter, a long ball or a free kick. Unfortunately it was the free kick.”
Having seen the skill of his opponents in set-pieces, and knowing the return of Gunemba means pace and unpredictability up front, the Frenchman expects a strong defensive performance from his team.
But also believes that with six points, Tahiti has a mental advantage over the Papua New Guineans which will play in their favour.
“We will go home with a lot of confidence,” he said.
“We’ll be able to play the match in Tahiti with a bit more serenity.”
Papua New Guinea: 1. Ronald WARISAN (GK), 2. Abel REDENUT, 3. Richard ALOIS, 4. Alwin KOMOLONG, 5. Felix KOMOLONG, 6. Patrick AISA, 7. Raymond GUNEMBA, 8. Michael FOSTER, 9. Nigel DABINYABA, 12. Samuel KINI, 14. Emmanuel SIMON, 15. Philip STEVEN, 16. Giwi SIMON, 17. Jacob SABUA, 19. Clement WILLIS, 21. Kusuga KOMOLONG, 22. Donovan MURRAY
Suspended: 10. David BROWNE
Coach: Flemming SERRITSLEV (DEN)
Story courtesy of OFC. For more on the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Qualifier -OFC Stage 3 visit www.oceaniafootball.com