Solomon Islands football was very close to 2020 Olympics after beating Vanuatu by 1-0 in OFC Olympic Qualifier’s and advancing through the final. Players and staff were very confident and dreaming about the possibility of representing their country in Japan next year before facing New Zealand.
The semifinal against Vanuatu was a difficult test for them even facing a 10-men side after Claude Aru was sent off in the first half. Augustine Waita scored the goal that led Solympics through the final. He told to Oceania Football Center that this tournament was a big experience for him and he was very happy for scoring this important goal. Waita scored five goals in the competition and he was the Solomon Islands topscorer in the championship. He was also selected for Oceania Football Center’s Team of the Tournament, something that made him feel honoured as he told to OFCe.
“My feeling of getting close to Olympics and feel other environment and how to play against the big countries of football” said Adrian Mara who could not face New Zealand due to a knee injury. He scored three goals in the tournament.
Despite losing by 5-0 in the final match, staff and players know that this silver medal has a special meaning for the Solympics and they are happy with it. “You did well, New Zealand players are very strong – some went to the U20 World Cup – you did your best in the game. Keep in the development”. These were the U23 Coach Batram Suri’s words to the players after the final whistle.
Solomon Islands football keeps improving and dreaming about reaching the next level. With a structured National League with good young players, the Solomonics are willing to show the world that the 2019 U17 World Cup appearence is not an outlier. Despite the good campaign in OFC U23, they still need to improve on keeping the ball control and defensive tatics to be more effective against stronger sides.