Four teams eye final qualification spot at OFC U-19 Men’s Championship

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Host nation Vanuatu will look to use their home field advantage as they kick off the OFC U-19 Men’s Championship 2024 – Qualifying in Port Vila on Tuesday.

The tournament begins at the spectacular setting of Freshwater Stadium, which was extensively redeveloped ahead of last year’s OFC Men’s Champions League, which Vanuatu hosted for the first time.

Main photo credit: OFC Media / Vanuatu Football Federation.

While the hosts are using the tournament logistically as a precursor to the OFC Men’s Nations Cup, which Vanuatu will host in June, Emerson Alcantara will want his young side to make a fast start against underdogs American Samoa.

“I am happy for the team to be playing at home in Vanuatu, but we respect all our opponents and are mindful of every team,” Alcantara said.

“My side has had a very good preparation and we have spent the best part of two months together. Some of the players played at the OFC U-17 Men’s Championship in Fiji last year so they have gained experience,” he said.

The American Samoa side is under the tutelage of new English coach David Jones who has been a technical advisor to the US Virgin Islands in 2014 and has been advising the Technical director at Belize in recent times.

Jones has only been with the team a week, which has given him very little time to work with and prepare his side for the qualifying tournament. However, American Samoa did manage to have a hit out against Samoa’s U-19’s team a few days ago, ahead of a tough week ahead.

“I’m not here to really lose or anything. We’re here to be competitive, we want to at least have a good showing. I think I’ve got them more competitive and ready than they’ve been for a while. So hopefully, we will put up a good show,” Jones said.

Vanuatu takes on American Samoa in the later game on the opening day after Lui Muavesi’s Tonga side meet Jess Ibrom’s Cook Islands in the tournament’s opening fixture.

Ibrom led the Cooks at the OFC Nations Cup tournament in Tonga last month and has included five players from that tournament in his squad.

“Those players that have recently been involved in the OFC Nations Cup qualifying tournament I’m sure will be very formidable opponents for us.

“We understand it’s going to be a big, big challenge. We’re in the host nation’s backyard. And I know there’s some outstanding work going on here with Emerson and everybody else. So we understand that. But we also understand that we want to embrace that challenge.

“We want to be as competitive as we can be, and openly represent the country with great pride,” Ibrom said.

There are three match days, with the winner of the round-robin format qualifying for the OFC U-19 Men’s Championship to be hosted by Samoa in July.

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