With a straight undefeated run, the Solomon Islands Under-16 team are through to their first-ever FIFA World Cup after defeating Fiji with a 3-1 win today to secure a spot at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru next year.
Today’s actions not only opened the door to the world cup but also sets another record in the football world, when Charles Mani flicked the ball past the Fijian goal keeper Isikeli Sevanaia just 40 seconds into the match, to take the lead.
Charles Mani again buried a cross from Le’ai to extend Solomon Islands’ lead to 2 goals in the 29th minute.
But just a few minutes before half time break, Fiji’s Nikhi Pillay attempted to turn the tides for his side when he lifted the ball beautifully over Davidson Makam, becoming the first player to score against Solomon Islands in the tournament.
It was 2-1 to Solomon Islands at half time.
Meanwhile, in the first minutes of the second half kick-off Solomon immediately started putting pressure on their opponents.
Wonder kid, Raphael Le’ai decided to extend his golden boot race by adding his eighth goal, and the third one for the home boys in the first minute of additional time.
The local boys’ performance has hooked the attention of the country’s top leaders including the Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela, opposition leader, Manasseh Maelanga, Speaker of the National Parliament Ajilon Nasiu and other government ministers and officials, who attended today’s semi-final match.
Prime Minister Houenipwela, Speaker Nasiu and Maelanga shook hands with the boys to show their appreciation after the final whistle.
Meanwhile, speaking after today’s win, Coach Stanley Waita saidthe game was tough but his boys maintained their game plan and played positive football.
He said they had been preparing for months, and their hard work had paid off today.
” Our country has been looking for a team to qualify for the world cup for so many years, and today is the day we did it,” he said.
“I have a lot of confidence in this team, they have have huge potentials , we trained for 5 months which is way more than any other Solomon islands teams, other teams in the past only train for one month, we did more than that, which paid off today.”
Leading goal scorer, Rafael Le’ai now with eight goals under his belt, also thanked the nation for backing the boys.
He said although the boys were a bit nervous , they stuck to their game plan and that’s how it paid off today.
“I want to thanked all the fans who came here today to support, through our hard work and their support , we made it,” he said.
“The game today was tough, some of our boys were nervous but we encouraged each other , and we worked hard a lot today.”
By: Charlie Salini.