By Jeremy Mogi – EM TV Sport, Port Moresby
PNG Football Association is looking for another piece of history with the announcement of their 29 men train-on squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, Qualifiers.
With the people of Papua New Guinea still talking about the historic third-place of the men’s side in the XV Pacific Games, the current list contains 16 players from that U23 squad.
Assistant coach, Reginald Davani, said as PNGFA continues to build the foundations for the team’s campaign towards the Nations Cup, his task now is to assess, assemble and put the best team forward for the qualifiers for Russia 2018.
Mainly the squad will reflect on the U23 players which participated in the 2015 July Pacific Games, said Davani.
The 2016 OFC Nations Cup, which acts as Stage 2 of Oceania’s qualifying process, will take place from 28 May-11 June 2016 with games to be played at Sir John Guise Stadium and the National Football Stadium in Port Moresby.
Along with being the next step on the Road to Russia, the Nations Cup offers entry to the 2017 Confederations Cup for the winners, and attracts a global audience thanks to the tournament’s role in the region’s World Cup qualifying pathway.
Both Ismael Pole and Charles Lepani, have been named after the Pacific Games alongside long time keeper Leslie Kalai and Ronald Warisan.
In the centre back roles, experienced defender Agi Moses Valentine alongside Japhet Tiampo and John Ray and Joshua Talau.
While three Hekari defenders Daniel Joe, Koriak Upaiga and Jeremy Yasasa, join former PNG youth captain Roland Bala.
No surprises in the midfield, with PNG captain David Muta Rapatona’s Michael Foster named, as Jacob Sabua, Darren Steven, Simon Emmanuel and Troy Gunemba join the ranks.
Upfront, danger all around with Raymond Gunemba, Nigel Dabinyaba, and Niel Hans as Basil Jofari from FC Pom gets a call up.
The extended list includes Jamal Seeto and Vanya Malagian. Seeto who struggled with Hekari, while Malagian was instrumental in Madangs maiden grandfinal in the NSL last season.
The biggest overseas names player is David Browne, who currently plays in Holland, and who was part of the Auckland FC side that placed third in the World Club Championships in 2015.
All in all, the squad looks sound, with a good blend of experienced players who’ve done it before, and a touch youth, many of whom will now have gotten used to playing on the big stage.
FULL SQUAD LIST
Goal Keepers – Leslie KALAI, Ismael POLE, Ronald WARISAN, Charles LEPANI;
Central Defenders – Valentine NELSON, John RAY, Joshua TALAU, Agi MOSES, Japhet TIAMPO;
Full Backs – Daniel JOE, Koriak UPAIGA, Roland BALA, Jeremy YASASA, Otto KUSUNAN;
Mid-field – Jacob SABUA, Darren STEVEN, Nathan JAMES, Simon EMMANUEL, Troy GUNEMBA, David MUTA, Michael FOSTER;
Forwards – Raymond GUNEMBA, Nigel DABINYABA, Papalau AWELE, Patrick AISA, Neil HANS, Emmanuel AIREM, Tommy SEMMY, Basil JOFARI.
Extended List – Rodney MOBIHA, John BAI, Jamal SEETO, Makis GELMAL, Vanya MALAGIAN.
Overseas Based – David BROWNE (HOL), Wira WAMA (USA), Alwin KOMOLONG (USA), Harry HILLARY-JENKINS (NZL), Maurie WASI (NZL), Felix KOMOLONG (NZL), Gimale ESSACU (AUS), Brad MCDONALD (AUS), George SLEFENDORFAS (AUS), Brendan BENI (HKG), Jordan SEETO (AUS).