Tupapa Maraerenga football team meets Tonga’s Veitongo FC in Auckland this afternoon – and it may come down to which team can best adapt to the turf underfoot at the Ngahue Reserve.
Tupapa coach Anthony Samuela said: “The games are being played on an artificial turf and like most grounds in the Pacific, we play on natural turf.
“So we need to keep the ball more, more ball possession and press forward and penetrate the goal.”
He wanted his side to be clinical in front of goal against Veitongo. “I think we need to get more in the front third and finish our goals and just go from there,” he said.
“The team is amped and ready to face Veitongo tomorrow. At their training session this morning, the team worked on their shape/formation of the team and looking to attack more at the goal to ensure a comfortable win for them.”
Tupapa drew 0-0 with Lupe in Auckland on Tuesday, a result that ensured Lupe qualified for the OFC Champions League 2020.
That stalemate also means that Tupapa only need a draw against Veitongo to advance to the Champions League; they’ve qualified for the group stages for the past two editions.
Tupapa looked sound defensively against Lupe with Australian-based centre back Jake Stuart proving tough to get past, while midfielder Grover Harmon showed flashes of creativity – but on offence, they were less convincing.
“The boys are focused on the task at hand and we intend to keep it that way until the whistle sounds at kick-off,” Samuela said.
“Each player that was selected for this team was selected for their capabilities and how hard they have worked throughout the 2019 Football Season. I have the belief in them to ensure the game plan is upheld and followed accordingly.”
The winners of the Qualifying Stage will join Group D, while the runner-up will enter Group C.
Tahiti will host Group D, and Group C will be contested in New Caledonia, with both groups running between March 1-7.
The top two sides from each group will progress to the quarter-finals, which will be played between April 4-5 with the semifinals to be contested on April 25-26. The final is scheduled for May 16. The full draw, including the Qualifying Stage, can be found here.
Tupapa Maraerenga FC vs Veitongo FC
Ngahue Reserve, Auckland, New Zealand, 5pm CI time
Tupapa Maraerenga FC
1. Tahiri ELIKANA (GK), 2. Francis TEREPO, 4. Avi ENOKA, 5. Jarves APERAU, 6. Anthony SAMUELA, 8. James OSIRAMO, 9. Andre ESTAY, 10. Grover HARMON, 11. Peni KITIONA, 12. Harlem SIMIONA, 13. Emiel BURROW, 14. Graham VIKING, 15. Ishaq NAZEEM, 16. Jake STUART, 17. Lee HARMON, 18. Paul DAY, 19. Geosah GEORGE, 20. Sunai JOSEPH (GK)
Head Coach: Anthony SAMUELA (Cook Islands)
1. Sinilau TAUFA (GK), 2. Pita HUNI, 3. Opesi TU'IFANGALOKA, 4. Sione UHATAHI, 5. Timote FAKSIIEIKI, 7. Kilifi UELE, 8. Pita Uhatahi, 9. Tupou UHATAHI, 10. Hemaloto POLOVILI, 11. Vai LUTU, 12. Tevita KOLOA, 14. Fine MOALA, 15. Maloni UKAKALA, 16. Sitaleki TUALAU, 17. Asitamani ANAU, 20. Semisi OTUKOLO, 21. Christopher KEFU, 22. David ANAU
Head Coach: Mark UHATAHI (Tonga)