A year to remember for Solomon Islands football

As we enter in 2020, it is time to make a recap about the previous year – and the 2019 of Solomon Islands football is surely a year to remember for history. The U17 FIFA World Cup held in Brazil – played in 2019 – was the first ever tournament a Solomon Islands football team played in a FIFA tournament. The likes of Raphael Lea’i, Leon Kofana and Charles Mani shown their talent in South America to represent their homeland and Oceania.

Despite the controversial cases of Chris Satu and Maxwell Keana that almost costed the spot of the Solomon Islanders in the World Cup, the team travelled to Brazil to show the world there is football in Oceania.

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Solomon Islands team in the U17 World Cup – FIFA Media

Solomon Islands was in very harsh group: Italy, Paraguay and Mexico. All three sides qualified for the knock-out stage – Mexico reached the final against Brazil and lost by 2-1, while Italians and Paraguayans stopped their campaign in the quarterfinals.

It was clear to everyone: the goal of the Solomon Islanders in the competition was purely to learn from it. The experience gotten from the young talented players can be crucial for the development of their careers.

Solomon Islands started their campaign against Italy. They could hold the European giants for more than 20 minutes, but the deadlock was broken and they went losing by 3-0 in the half time break. In the final part of the game the Oceanians suffered more two goals to finish the match in a 5-0 defeat.

Their second match was against also a very traditional nation from South America – the Paraguayans had players from their most important teams in the country and proved too strong for the Solomon Islanders pulling ahead in the scoreline in the starting minutes of the game. Unfortunately for the Oceania football fans, Solomon Islands young side suffered one more heavy defeat in that match – 7-0.

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Raphael Lea’i tried his best for Solomon Islands – FIFA Media

The Pacific Islanders made a lot of defensive mistakes in the both matches against Italy and Paraguay – Oceania Football Center made a performance analysis of their defensive system during the tournament.

The final match for Solomon Islands was also against a strong side: – that ended the World Cup in the 2nd place losing for the hosts Brazil – Mexico. The Mexicans were in need of a big win to qualify for the knock-out stage and unfortunately for the Solomon Islanders they could really get it. The heaviest defeat of the tournament was suffered by the Oceanians: 8-0. Once again many defensive mistakes happened in the game and another analysis was made by our staff.

Solomon Islands team before the match against Italy

Despite suffering twenty goals in the tournament and coming home with three defeats, a lot of learning can be taken for this historical moment for the Solomon Islands sport.

There are not doubts regarding the technical quality of the players produced in the country: they can compete. But they can compete for only an amount of game time – their physicial conditions are not still able to allow them to hold the match for the entire ninety minutes.

The physical condiotining was a crucial problem for the Solomon Islanders, but their tactical system and organization in the pitch also let them very vulnerable to the experience attacks they played against in the U17 World Cup. Another problem to take is the mental area of the game – after conceding a goal, usually Solomon Islands suffered another and losing the control of the game – the lapses of concentration and lack of attention allowed the opponents to score many goals.

It is a rare opportunity to have this international exposure – especially at world stage. It allows to see how is the real level of football played in Oceania and in which areas are necessary to focus looking for improvement. Solomon Islands had their chance and now the work need to keep going forward in order to prepare this generation for the upcoming challenges the country will have in football.

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