Weeks of nervous anticipation have come to an end for members of the Solomon Islands training squad with the announcement of a list of 25 names for the XIV Pacific Games.Head coach Jacob Moli revealed his line-up for the Bonitos, as the national team is known, at a press conference in Honiara this week and stated that his intention was to balance the experience of older campaigners with the pace and enthusiasm of a batch of promising youngsters.
"We had ample time to assess the players and review our decisions over them," he said.
"The major factors that played a role in the naming of the team were pace and experience. We are trying to play an attacking game but we require an experienced and solid defence to back it up."
Only 20 players will be making the trip to New Caledonia so the list does include five non-travelling reserves. The team management has decided to keep the reserves' identity under wraps at this stage though as they want the entirety of the wider squad to remain focused.
"We do not want any player to ease up on his commitment to training because he is a non-traveller and nor do we want anybody to take their place in the team for granted," Moli said.
"All the players are expected to work at the same rate and we think the best way of doing this is not to reveal the final 20 now."
As expected, Moli has selected a goalkeeping trio of Shadrack Ramoni, Jimmy Qwaina and veteran Severino Aefi, who together provide the blend of youth and experience the coaching staff have been striving for throughout the squad.
Ramoni and Aefi are hardened performers at international level with the latter having represented Solomon Islands on and off for the last 22 years. Qwaina is a newcomer to the international scene but is touted as the country's brightest goalkeeping prospect and is developing under the watchful eye of Aefi, who recently attended a FIFA goalkeeping course at the OFC Academy in Auckland.
In defence, there are only two new faces in the form of Hadisi Aengari and Timothy Joe, who have risen to join the ranks of, among others, the experienced George Suri, Gideon Omokirio and Nelson Sale.
Henry Fa'arodo and Stanley Waita provide plenty of experience in midfield but the youth policy is more evident in the players named to line up next to them. Jeffery Bule, Joses Nawo and Joachim Waroi are all known for their speed while an interesting feature of the squad is James Naka's inclusion as a midfielder.
Naka normally operates as a central striker but can perform equally well on the left wing and his attacking versatility is likely to come in handy for Moli.
The four strikers named are talisman Benjamin Totori, Joe Luwi, Abraham Iniga and young Ian Paia, who lags far behind the former three in terms of international experience but received important game time against foreign opposition when starring for Koloale in the 2011 O-League. The rookie will be full of confidence after finishing the inaugural Telekom S-League as golden boot runner-up with 15 goals.
In the last edition of the Pacific Games, in Samoa in 2007, Solomon Islands failed to earn a medal after losing 2-0 to Vanuatu in the 3rd/4th play-off but Moli believes that will have no bearing on the current squad's prospects.
"This team does not want to dwell on the past - we are looking at our objectives for the future and the challenges which we have to overcome to achieve them. We only acknowledge the past as a basis upon which we want to build and get better from," he stated.
To make sure they are ready for action on arrival in New Caledonia, the Bonitos are scheduled to play a spate of friendly matches with local clubs in the two weeks before their departure.
Solomon Islands squad for XIV Pacific Games:
Shadrack Ramoni (Koloale)
Jimmy Qwaina (Hana)
Severino Aefi (Kossa)
Hadisi Aengari (Solomon Warriors)
Samson Takayama (Koloale)
Aleck Wickham (Western United)
Tome Faisi (Kossa)
Seni Ngava (Kossa)
Timothy Joe (Western United)
Nelson Sale (Amicale, Vanuatu)
Gideon Omokirio (Koloale)
George Suri (Koloale)
Henry Fa'arodo (Koloale)
Joe Manu (Hana)
Mostyn Beui (Koloale)
Joses Nawo (Koloale)
Jeffery Bule (Koloale)
Michael Fifii (Canterbury United, New Zealand)
Stanley Waita (Amicale, Vanuatu)
Joachim Waroi (Marist Fire)
James Naka (Rewa, Fiji)
Joe Luwi (Tafea, Vanuatu)
Abraham Iniga (Marist Fire)
Benjamin Totori (Koloale)
Ian Paia (Koloale)