The Solomon Islands finished their tour in Queensland, Australia – 9th March – in preparation for the World Cup qualifiers. The team coached by Felipe Vega-Arango collected two wins and one loss.
In the first match the Bonitos faced the under-23 team of Brisbane Roar, since the friendly match against the Brisbane Roar’s main team was cancelled due to heavy rains.
The performance and the 1-0 win with Micah Lea’alafa scoring the team’s goal got many praises from the team captain to the players: “Our current national team is different from any other national team I’ve been playing with in my career as a national player, it’s the best team ever where the young boys are coachable players ” – Micah Lea’alafa
In the second match Felipe Vega-Arango put a totally different team on the field promoting the debut as a starter of 10 players: Harold Nauania, David Supa, Raphael Lea’i, Carlos Liomasia, Molis Jnr Gagame, Leon Kofana, Ronnie Mani, Ali Mekawir, Junior David and Don Keana.
The Spaniard faced criticism after the 2-1 loss to Caboolture and said that people need not worry, because that is what a friendly match is for, to test the team, and give the players rhythm: “The team for the first half is new and really young; we are building a new team for the future, they never played together before. We all want to win, but sometimes we lose, that is sports. Most people don’t know what it takes to build and create a new team.” – Felipe Vega-Arango.
Ian Lagwai with a header scored the Solomon Islands’ goal in the friendly match.
The last friendly match was against the Lions – the current champions of the Queensland Premier League. A convincing 4-2 win, with the team managing to good spells of possession, creating scoring opportunities and capitalising the opponent’s mistakes. Micah Lea’alafa (penalty kick), Thompson (own goal), Joses Nawo, and Ali Mekawir – who scored his first goal for the national team – scored the winning goals.
Shortly after the good win against the Lions the Solomon Islands suffered a heavy blow: the young defender Javin Wae suffered an ankle injury and will miss the qualifiers. He was going to be the starter in the opening game against the Cook Islands. He was one of players who came to Brazil for the U-17 World Cup and also captained Central Coast FC to last year’s Telekom Super League title despite his young age. Felipe Vega-Arango said he will not force him to play: “Wae has a sprained ankle and I don’t think he will play in the world cup qualifiers next week… Was unfortunate for Wae. He is a strong boy and one of my best defenders.” Leon Kofana is expected to be the starter against the Cook Islands.
Solomon Islands’ delegation traveled to Doha to finish their preparation – they are already in Qatari’s soil. The Solomon Islands play their first match against Cook Islands on 17th March.