As local favourites Tupapa Maraerenga FC have already secured their passage to the OFC Champions League Group Stage, the Tongan and Samoan champions will face each other in a winner-takes-all clash today to grab the second available spot on offer in the next phase of the region’s premier club football competition.
Winless Pago Youth from American Samoa will be playing for pride when they meet the table topping locals who will be determined to conclude the tournament with maximum points from their three matches.
Due to their better goal difference Tongan hopefuls Lotoha’aapi United FC will need only a draw against their Samoan rivals Kiwi FC in order two finish in the top two, but coach Lui Muavesi insists his side will be playing for victory. The match will kick off at 2.30pm.
“The game will be the most important game for us in this competition here in the Cook Islands and we will play hard because a win will be good for Tonga football.
“We are in a good position as a win or a draw is enough to qualify but we are not going for the draw, we want to win to become the number two team and qualify for the second round,” explained the coach of Lotoha’apai.
With a fierce rivalry between sporting teams representing these two proud Pacific nations, Muavesi is expecting a keenly contested match.
“Playing against our neighbours from Samoa, it’s always going to be a tough game, it’s like a war and at the end of the game the best team wins but in tomorrow’s game we are not underestimating our opponent, this is football and you can make a mistake in the first minute and you can lose the game, like it happened with us against Tupapa.
“It’s a do-or-die match and we have to play hard so we will play until the end of the final whistle,” he added.
Martin Tamasese in charge of Kiwi FC is also adamant his side is fully aware of the significance of tomorrow’s match and will be up for the challenge.
“This is the most important game for us because if we win we qualify but if we will lose it’s over and that’s the reason why we are preparing hard and work on some of the problems our players and our team faced during our last game against Pago Youth from American Samoa.
“I’ve seen Lotoha’apai playing, they play really well but I know our boys can manage to give a good game against Lotoha’apai,” Tamasese declared.
Hosts Tupapa Maraerenga had been the most dominant team in the tournament so far and they will go into their final match against Pago Youth as hot favourites at 5.30pm.
Well organised at the back, solid in the middle of the park and clinical going forward Delaney Yaqona’s players have amassed eight goals and only conceded twice to cruise past both Kiwi FC and Lotoha’apai United and guarantee their place in the top two.
Determined to finish with three wins from as many matches, Yaqona is promising another committed Tupapa performance.
“Even though we had two very good results there is still a game to play and we have to make sure the boys are ready as we know that Pago Youth had a very good game against Kiwi FC so we will have our work cut out for us on Friday.
“It’s about building a momentum, we are under no illusion of the level required at the next stage of this competition so going into that next phase to have three wins out of three is really important for us in order to get that momentum and getting the boys feeling really positive about things,” Yaqona added.
Despite the qualification hopes of Pago Youth are over, the American Samoans will also be desperate to finish the tournament on a high note.
Confident his side has what it takes to produce their best performance of the qualifiers, coach Rambo Tapui believes his team can upset the favourites.