Solomon Islands just made their debut at world stage of football; previously the islanders were well represented by the Kurukuru at FIFA Futsal World Cup and for the Bilikiki at FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. Their first time in a football tournament was surely a moment to remember for two reasons: a proud moment for the nation and to understand what is the reality of football at world stage – the Solomon Islanders faced the four-time world champions at senior level, Italy – the result could not be much different than a heavy 5-0 defeat.
The Oceania side could hold Italy for 24 minutes – a good margin. The Italians come from academies of important teams as Inter Milan and Juventus, a very different level for Oceania, something that none country in the confederation has.
It is understandable for the locals the initial disapointment with the result, but when we bounce back to our normal mentality we can clearly see the Solomon Islands team gave everything they could to have the best result possible. The goalkeeper Davidson Malam was really impressive, important stops and shows a lot of raw potential to work with. Leon Kofana – despite giving way the first goal of the opponents – made various clinical tackles and avoided the difference in the scoreline to be even bigger that it was. Raphael Lea’i is special, a real talent that is also already raw – the whole team has a lot to improve and we can see clearly there is a lot of potential there – but can turn into a real diamond.
What is still necessary to understand in Oceania is that football is not about the best eleven players, but the best team and we can easily say that Solomon Islands have raw diamonds as Mani, Malam, Kofana and Lea’i, but they do not have a team – at least from what they have shown against Italy – and this reality made it just impossible to stop a very well organized Italian team.
A team is made by eleven players, but eleven players not necessarily make a team: a team is composed by players that are phisically fit, with proper stamina and ready to understand the game – that is mental part of the sport. Solomon Islands just could not protect their back four, they just could not combine well passing, they just could not even defend well. Italy could have scored ten, but with some lucky and due the decent performances of Malan and Kofana it ended up as five.
Stanley Waita is a legend for Solomon Islands – with total merits – and made his best to coordinate his team. He knows this is a great experience for them and this first match will teach them many lessons they can recover in their next two challenges against Paraguay and Mexico.
Football has turned into something much more complex than twenty-two players and a ball rolling in a field. Tactics matters, mentality matters, physicality matters and techinique matters. A good team will be necessarily composed by these four areas in high levels. This is what the young men from Solomon Islands are looking to learn from this tournament – the international exposure is a key factor, so on the technicall staffs will start investing in another areas of football, not only as making players good technically as usual.
As mentioned, it is completely understanble the frustration by some fans. But Solomon Islands made, without any doubts, their nation very proud. Keeping the proccess they started when they had qualified for the U17 World Cup, this generation can put the Solomon Islands football scenario in another level – but this must go on with the right treatments.
This is not anymore Oceania, this is another level – higher than anything they have experienced before. These are the first steps of a generation that can bring more joy for their people. All those who are in Solomon Islands need to give their support for them in their next matches and next steps of their footballing career. There is a lot to come for them.
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