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Cook Islands footballers confident ahead of World Cup qualifiers

Wednesday 16 March 2022 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Soccer, Sports

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Cook Islands footballers confident ahead of World Cup qualifiers
PHOTO: COOK ISLANDS FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION

The Cook Islands football team has had a strong start to their tour of Qatar ahead of their opening World Cup qualifying match against the Solomon Islands.

The side won 2-0 in a friendly match against Az Azubare, a Qatari club side, on Monday, and coach Alan Taylor said it was “was a very useful exercise”.

“The result was pleasing, 2-0 win, but most pleasing was the attitude and willingness to work of all the players,” Taylor said.

“We only had three training sessions together as a team before the game so whilst there are many things to work on from a football perspective, the players showed they are up for the fight physically and mentally.”

Taylor said the friendly “certainly assisted with my thinking on team selection for the game against Solomons”, who they play in their opening World Cup qualifying clash on March 17.

“It was the first time I had seen a number of the players play. It was important to see everyone play not just to assess their technical and tactical ability but also their mentality, willingness to work and general character on the pitch,” he said.

Taylor said the side’s fitness levels will be tested over the three World Cup qualifying matches against the Solomon Islands, Tahiti and Vanuatu. 

“All of the players are currently in preseason training with their clubs so may not be at the level of match fitness we would ideally like, but I have no doubt come game time they will be ready to play,” Taylor said.

“We have some very good experienced footballers who have fitted into the formation and systems I have given them. They are taking everything on board, they are all very positive and determined to do well.”

Taylor admitted the three matches will pose a big challenge for the Cook Islands side.

“We will have a gameplan with and without the ball, and come game time I am confident we will be ready to play. Each player will know his role and will give 100 per cent,” he said.

“All the players are excited and proud to play for and represent their country. They will not let anyone down. I can't wait for the first game.”