Fiji and Papua New Guinea meet at Go Media Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland on Saturday to determine which team joins hosts New Zealand in the semi-finals from Group A at the OFC Olympic qualifier.
Fiji lost 3-1 to New Zealand on Wednesday, while PNG’s forfeit in the opening game against the Oly Whites resulted in FIFA awarding New Zealand a 3-0 win.
It means Fiji will need a draw and Papua New Guinea a win to advance to the semi-finals in Saturday’s match.
Fiji coach Robert Sherman says the players have recovered well from their tournament opener against New Zealand on Wednesday.
“Well, we’re in good shape in terms of injuries, we’re not carrying too many, there’s a little bit of soreness here and there, but nothing to worry about. And we have a game plan. Obviously, I’m not going to share that with you.
“I don’t want to give Papua New Guinea any heads up, but we have a plan that we’re looking to implement, which has been consistent, targeting aspects of the opposition that we expected to play since we’ve been in camp,” Sherman said.
Despite Papua New Guinea’s late arrival, the Fijian coach expects to face a well-drilled opponent.
“They will be a good team in terms of physicality and technique. We know they will be a challenge, so we are not expecting a pushover.
“It’s a make-or-break game; if we lose, we’re out. If we win (or draw) we are through to the semi-finals. So we will be doing our best to win the game,” Sherman said.
Main photo: The Papua New Guinea team at their training session in Auckland. Photo credit: PNG Football Association.
PNG coach: ‘We’re here to play football’
The full PNG squad arrived in Auckland late on Wednesday night, but coach David Muta is adamant his players have adjusted quickly to the cooler conditions than they are used to back home.
“We’re here to play football. The boys have had a few runs and are looking forward to the game. This is do-or-die for us, so we must play hard, be strong and give everything so that a win will be good for us,” Muta said.
But Muta’s expecting a difficult encounter against a Fijian side who are battled hardened following a tough 3-1 loss to New Zealand on Wednesday.
“They’re strong and have huge players and Fiji football is always aggressive. So that’s what I know about Fiji football. So we must be strong and stand up and play against them. If we go in there and we play easy Fiji will run us down.”
Muta felt his side could have one advantage though, with the late arrival meaning the players could be fresher than their opponents.
“Yes, that’s one of our advantages, and we must make use of it. We don’t have to hold back because Fiji has very strong players and we don’t have to hold back, we just must give everything to make sure we come out with a good result.”
Acknowledgement: Story provided by OFC Media.
Game to be played on Saturday September 2, 2023
Fiji v Papua New Guinea
Go Media Mt Smart Stadium, 3pm
Games to be played on Sunday September 3, 2023
Vanuatu v Samoa
The Trusts Arena, Auckland, 12pm
Tonga v Solomon Islands
The Trusts Arena, Auckland, 3pm
To be played at Go Media Mt Smart Stadium on Wednesday September 6, 2023, at 3pm and 7pm.
To be played at North Harbour Stadium on Saturday September 9, 2023, at 7pm.