Image: Coach Serritslev giving a pep talk to the Papua New Guinean side during training
Just over two weeks remain until Papua New Guinea face Tahiti, in their first leg, of the OFC World Cup qualifiers, and the National football team is already reaching top gear.
The squad began assembling yesterday, for their final preparations before the crucial encounter, and overseas-based players, Alwin Komolong and Michael Foster are adamant the squad is looking forward to the match.
In just 17 days, the PNG squad will embark on what will be one of their biggest tests. The 2012 OFC Champions of Tahiti, had initially been overwhelming favourites a year ago. But the OFC Nations cup had proved Papua New Guinea’s mettle, and over the weekend, National coach, Serritslev, had stated that the home side, was not going to make the same mistakes from previous match-ups.
Building the core of his squad for last season’s campaign had been relatively easy, but with most of the squad now plying their trade internationally, the head coach has been working on gelling his team together with the limited time they will have prior to meeting Tahiti.
Defender Alwin Komolong has been candid about his role in the side, having been switched for the heart of midfield, to the heart of defence. Alongside him, mid-fielder Michael Foster, who knows the importance of a cool head against strong opponents.
The current PNG Men’s National football team will be embarking on a journey rarely taken by their predecessors. Serritslev’s charges led the nation on a whirlwind of emotional highs, and devastating lows, but the fairytale romanticism of 2016 are very different to this stage of the qualifying campaign.
The loss of a number of players over the past two months, had opened the door for more overseas based players, and younger less experienced members of the National set up. Tahiti for their part, once initially under the radar to Papua New Guinea, will still be a dangerous opposition. Physically bigger, and with better individual technical ability, the Francophones have the benefit of European football education – and the hosts are no doubt wary of that. Papua New Guinea will face Tahiti on the 23rd of March at 5pm.