Star forward Raphael Lea’i has been racing time to get to Auckland to help his Solomon Islands side in their efforts to qualify for next year’s Paris Olympics.
Lea’i plays for club side FK Velež Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina and was hoping to arrive in Auckland in time for Sunday’s OFC Olympic qualifier Pool B game against Tonga at The Trusts Arena (3pm).
Solomon Islands head coach Eddie Marahare told OFC Media:
“Arrangements are in place but it depends on the flight. As soon as they confirm the flight, I’ll be able to confirm whether he will play on Sunday or for the semi-final.
“If Rafa is present, then I’m sure the boys will be happy. They all look to Rafa as a great example, and I’m sure he’ll bring a lot of confidence to the team.”
Solomon Islands are likely to play Fiji in the semi-finals on Wednesday September 6.
Meanwhile, New Zealand will learn on Sunday who they will meet in the last four when Vanuatu play Samoa in their Pool B game at The Trusts Arena (12pm).
Having both registered one win and one defeat in their two matches thus far, victory either way will ensure progression to the last four, whilst defeat means an early trip home.
Vanuatu responded well following their opening match defeat to Solomon Islands, powering their way past Tonga on Thursday with a 4-0 win. Samoa, who had looked impressive in their own victory against Tonga, fell to a powerful Solomon Islands team 3-0, despite playing against ten men for the majority of the 90 minutes.
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
Fixtures have been completed in Pool A.
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.