Thursday, 30 August 2012 11:25 AM

Soccer Squad Finalized

A host of debutants are looking forward to getting a taste of senior international football for the first time after the finalisation of the Solomon Islands squad for the opening of the Stage 3 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign.

Solympics goalkeeper Samson Koti has made the cut along with fellow U-23 defenders Emmanuel Poila and Willie Lamani while also joining the team for the first time are midfielders Leonard Rokoto and Paul Hiri.

But the most eye-catching name in the group is that of former Waitakere United striker Gagame Feni, one of the hottest properties in the country after returning from New Zealand to star in Solomon Warriors double-winning triumph.

Rokoto is delighted to be involved and can't wait to wear the colours of his country.

"It is everything that I have dreamed of," says Rokoto, who was a member of Solomon squad that finished runners-up at the 2011 OFC U-20 Championship.

"All I want is the opportunity to play for my national team and I am really look forward to the experience."

In a clear attempt to balance maturity with the vibrancy and enthusiasm of the younger players, the selectors have come up with a team that is split almost half-in-half in terms of the newcomers and seasoned campaigners. The regulars are led by captain Henry Fa'arodo and Seni Ngava, who both have a wealth of experience under their belts.

Notable omissions from the OFC Nations Cup squad are goalkeepers Felix Ray Jnr and Shadrack Ramoni while James Naka has also been left out. Naka has been replaced by Ian Paia, who debuted for the Bonitos at the Pacific Games last year.

Many fans have already expressed their displeasure at the overlooking of Solomon Warriors captain Judd Molea but coach Jacob Moli says there is unlikely to ever be a consensus amongst the public as to which players should be involved. He is calling on the Bonitos fanatical supporters to look beyond Molea's omission and get behind the team.

"I want the public to know that the panel has done its best in finalising this squad," Moli says.

"Please support this team because it belongs to the country. We made our considerations collectively and have made the best choices regarding our top players."

Moli has, however, left the door open for those not involved and says they should not give up hope of playing for their country.

"We dealt with a lot of talent in the selection process and, unfortunately, some have had to be left out. My message to those players is to know that opportunities lie ahead and when the chance comes you must work hard to get your spot in the national team."

While the majority of the squad members are locally-based, several key stars are yet to jet in from their overseas clubs. Benjamin Totori, who is with A-League outfit the Wellington Phoenix on a pre-season tour, is not expected back until September 4 while Amicale defender Nelson Sale is still in Vanuatu but will return to Honiara this week.

Solomon Islands will open their FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign against Tahiti at Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara on September 7. This match will be swiftly followed by an away clash against New Zealand on September 11.

Solomon Islands squad for Stage 3 FIFA World Cup qualifiers

Goalkeepers: Samson KOTI (Kossa), Paul HUIA (Solomon Warriors)

Defenders: Tome FAISI (Solomon Warriors), Seni NGAVA (Kossa), Hardies AENGARI (Solomon Warriors), Emmanuel POILA (Solomon Warriors), Freddie KINI (Koloale), Nelson SALE (Amicale, Vanuatu), Willie LAMANI (Kossa), Loni KARABA (Western United)
Aleck WICKHAM (Western United)

Midfielders: Mostyn BEUI (Koloale), Joses NAWO (Koloale), Leslie NATE (Kossa), Jeffery BULE (Solomon Warriors), Jack WETNEY (Western United), Henry FA'ARODO (Nelson, New Zealand), Leonard ROKOTO (Western United), Himson TELEDA (Western United), Paul HIRI (Real Kakamora)

Forwards: Benjamin TOTORI (Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand), Joe LUWI (Western United), Gagame FENI (Solomon Warriors), Joachim WAROI (Solomon Warriors)
Ian PAIA (Koloale)

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