The Solomon Islands Football Federation wish to officially announce the Solomon Islands 25-man squad for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ OFC preliminary competition to be held next month in Doha, Qatar.
Solomon Islands coach Felipe Vega-Arango said it’s tough to pick the final squad as the players are competing well against each other in training since last year.
Fourteen players are named to the national team for the first time as coach Felipe Vega-Arango builds a team around some experienced players from the past World Cup qualifiers where Solomon Islands reached the final round of play-off against New Zealand in 2017.
In between the sticks, former U-20, Solympics and Waneagu United goalkeeper Harold Nauania and Honiara City’s Junior Petua earned a place in the national team for the first time alongside mainstay goalkeeper Philip Mango.
The backline comprises mostly of young defenders such as former FIFA U-17 World Cup duo Javin Wae and Leon Kofana. Former youth international players Junior David and Ian Lagwai get their first national team called up as well having represented the country in the U-17, U-19 and U-23 category in the past.
New faces into the national team setup in defence are David Supa, Prince Tahunipue and Ronny Mani of Waneagu United. Veteran centre back Haddis Aengari provides experience alongside the youthful defenders.
The heart of midfield features creative trio Micah Lea’alafa, Atkin Kaua and Tigi Molea. Former U-19 midfielder Don Keana makes the cut for the first time having played a key role in Waneagu United impressive debut season in the Telekom S-League last season.
The wide areas have the service of experience international Gagame Feni and due international Alvin Hou. Holding midfielders are Molis Junior Gagame who played a crucial role in the Solympics run to the final in the OFC Olympic qualifiers 2018 and William Komasi TSL player of the season 2021.
Another player without international caps is Real Kakamora Carlos Liomasia who catches the eye of the Spaniard and do well in training to earn a first national team selection.
Solomon Islands have been blessed with an attacking flair in the past and this current crop of players could be a handful to any defence in the region.
Leading the attack is veteran Joses Nawo who has 33 international caps and six goals during his career where he predominantly plays as a right-back or as a right-winger. With his versatility playing as an attacker, Felipe trusts him to provide the goals upfront besides a very pacey youthful frontline including former U-19 striker Ali Mekawir and 4 times capped Adrian Mara.
Former U-17 talisman Raphael Lea’i is named to the national team for the second time but he didn’t travel with the team to the Pacific Games two years ago. The wonder kid is a goal machine in the domestic league and caused havoc in the OFC U-16 Championship on home soil in 2018. If he is firing in Qatar, the national team has a huge chance to progress further into the later stages of the competition.
Solomon Cup golden boot winner and Real Kakamora striker Jaygray Sipakana who was called up late last year into the training squad could not make it due to incomplete vaccination which is a requirement set by FIFA, OFC and Qatar for all travelling players for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ OFC preliminary.
“Sipakana got his first shot of the vaccine on 3rd January 2022 and will get his second jab after 8 weeks from his first to complete vaccination process,” Felipe explained.
“It is a requirement set by FIFA and Sipakana is unfortunate not meeting the requirement as only fully vaccinated players are to play in the World Cup qualifiers.
“Also he can’t travel out of the country and into Qatar without a vaccine as travel arrangement for visa applications needs proof of vaccination of players and officials”
Another two players currently training with the national team but are not in the final squad due to competition for places are defenders Emmanuel Poila and Alick Kitalo.
Meanwhile, the national team is training in small groups of 5 for an hour daily from 9 am-4 pm at Lawson Tama and will move camp soon to stay in a bubble before leaving for the World Cup qualifiers later this month.
Source: SIFF Media