By Jeremy Mogi – EM TV Sports, Port Moresby
With opening wins under their belts, Samoa and the Cook Islands will both be chasing the full three points in an effort to make their passage to Stage 2 of the FIFA World Cup qualification process a little more assured.
Tonga and American Samoa, while chasing the same goal of victory, are both hoping to keep themselves in the running.
Cook Islands opened their campaign a little shaky, and at times allowed Tonga more room than they should have, and could have easily been punished for this. They were fortunate that the finishing wasn’t as accurate as it should have been or the hosts might have conceded a couple of goals of their own.
The precision of one player in particular, Taylor Saghabi, proved the difference as he struck three unanswered goals to give his side a decent advantage going into match day two.
As evidenced by the final result, the Cook Islands got their campaign back on track but they’ll need the full 90 minutes of concentration from everyone on the park if they want to successfully up-end the favourites, Samoa. And it won’t be easy.
Samoa came out hard and fast in their opener, applying plenty of pressure to the opposition. It proved an effective game plan against American Samoa, but with most teams having found their flow in this competition, it’s only going to get harder to maintain that style of play.
Three different players got on the board for this side – Desmond Faaiuaso, Andrew Mobberley and Faitalia Hamilton-Pama – which shows there is depth in the squad that makes them a threat from anywhere on the pitch.
American Samoa may have had a few nerves with a large portion of the squad making their international debuts, but once they settled into the match they became a real force to be reckoned with.
Tonga won’t be happy about going down in the history books as the side American Samoa beat four years ago to claim their first international victory. Not only is a spot in Stage Two on the line for this side, so is national pride.