With the 3 stage of Oceania qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup just around the corner, PNG coach Flemming Serritslev could not afford to bask in his side’s glory for long and has instead been hard at work preparing for the vital upcoming matches.
The Group B pair, Solomon Island and Tahiti are the first of OFC’s six remaining teams to get underway with Oceania’s path to Russia ultimately winding through South America in the form of a home and away tie against the fifth best nation from CONMEBOL.
New Zealand and New Caledonia are also involved on Match Days one and two in the November window last year – their first Group A clash was in Auckland – while Fiji (Group A) and Papua New Guinea (Group B) are kicking off their campaign next month.
With so much at stake, the start of a new phase of qualifying may lend itself to a cautious approach and indeed the head to head records of the two teams in FIFA World Cup qualifying.
PNG will have a taste of action against Tahiti next month, with the newly invigorated Kapuls looking impressive under the guidance of Flemming Serritslev. PNG’s home and away matches against Tahiti could go a long way towards deciding the winner of the group.
2016 has been a year of football in Papua New Guinea and is finally building some momentum after years of relative inactivity at international level. Leading the charge have been the success of PNG senior men’s national team at the OFC Nations Cup, later in the same year the successful hosting of the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup.
Unlike most Oceania nations, Papua New Guinea is a mountainous country with most of the population domiciled away from Port Moresby.
Indeed, many players have to take a flight to reach the capital from the likes of Lae and other regional centres, making preparations expensive and a major logistical challenge. On the positive side, Serritslev views the fact that the majority of the squad are based domestically as a positive.
Only few players are overseas base in the likes of Raymond Gunemba, Nigel Dabinyaba, Brad McDonald, David Browne, Felix Komolong, Alwin Komolong and George Slefendorfas.
The Papua New Guinea Kapuls are currently in their first camp in Port Moresby and will end on Sunday. Serritslev expressed disappointment at the unavailability of nine Hekari players who were denied release from the club.
However he has maintained positive outlook and claims the side will face the qualifiers as best prepared as possible.
“A country like PNG is growing and has improved but we have to be realistic. Our goal has to be to try and finish on top of New Zealand.”
“Football doesn’t progress in big steps. You would like to think progress will happen overnight but the improvement over say the past two years has been dramatic.
“The players are now being exposed to a different level. We have to patient and we will bear the fruits in two, three or four years.
PNG will kick off their campaign at home and with expectation that comes from playing in front of a home crowd.
PNG vs Tahiti
Sir John Guise Stadium
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Thursday 23 March