The make up of the Solomon Islands U-23 squad and the man who will attempt to lead the players to the 2012 London Olympics have both been unveiled.The 20-strong squad was announced last week by the Solomon Islands Football Federation (SIFF), who also revealed that the side would be coached by Luke Eroi, who is currently in charge of Vanuatu club Amicale's O-League campaign.
Eroi will be assisted by former Solomon Islands international Batram Suri, now part of a coaching duo with Moses Toata at S-League club Solomon Warriors, while Koloale defender and SIFF staff member Gideon Omokirio will act as manager.
Selection panel head Noel Wagapu is pleased with the appointments and says Eroi and co have been presented with a strong group of players to work with.
"There are some very good players in the Solympics team and I believe they are the right bunch to represent Solomon Islands at the qualifying competition," he says.
"We worked with top-class players throughout the trials and the ones that have made the squad are the best of the best."
Interestingly, no overseas-based players have been named in the squad despite several worthy candidates attracting attention from New Zealand.
Omokirio says the management is more interested in the overall strength of the team than individual talent.
"We have selected players we were able to monitor on a daily basis and, hence, we know how to best utilise them within the team," he says. "We have some good players overseas but it is a matter of the team and we need players who understand how we want to play."
Silas Seda has been named as first choice goalkeeper while Peter Kiriau will provide cover - the same positions held by the pair in last year's national U-20 team that competed at the OFC championships in Auckland, New Zealand. Seda and Kiriau are both S-League regulars and have established themselves as the No 1 at their respective clubs.
The experienced trio of Freddie Kini, Christopher Tafoa and Michael Boso will form the basis of the defence while the most noteworthy selections in the midfield are the energetic utility Jeffery Henry, a former futsal player, and the inclusion of Tutizama Tanito in an unfamiliar role. Tanito is more widely known as a striker but has been picked for his qualities on the wing rather than as a goalscorer.
No striker from the U-20 squad has been able to make the step up into the Olympics fold as fierce competition from older and more experienced players saw them exit in the trials stage. Koloale star Ian Paia and futsal maestro Micah Lea'alafa join Carroll Kakate and Tony Otini in this department and will be expected to find the goals to fire the side to London.
The Oceania men's qualifying tournament for the Olympics will take place at Owen Delany Park in Taupo, New Zealand, from March 16 to 25. Solomon Islands have been drawn in a four-team Group A with Fiji, Vanuatu and American Samoa while Group B consists of three teams - New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Tonga.
The top two teams from each group will go through to the semi-finals before the Oceania qualifier is found with a winner-takes-all final.
Solomon Islands squad for Olympic qualifiers
Silas SEDA - Solomon Warriors
Peter KIRIAU - Hana
Freddie KINI - Koloale
Christopher TAFOA - Solomon Warriors
Emmanuel POILA - Solomon Warriors
Francis LAFAI - Koloale
Michael BOSO - Western United
Israel Fanai KOTI - Koloale
Jeffery HENRY - Hana
Augustine SAMANI - Koloale
Himson TELEDA - Western United
Moffat KILIFA - Western United
Jeffery BULE - Solomon Warriors
Tutizama TANITO - Marist Fire
Jerry Lou DONGA - Solomon Warriors
Johan DOIWALE - Real Kakamora
Ian PAIA - Koloale
Micah LEA'ALAFA - Solomon Warriors
Carroll KAKATE - Solomon Warriors
Tony OTINI - Hana
Polycarp BONAVE - Marist Fire
Samson Koti - Kossa
Michael Sira - Kossa
Remarx KWARIA - Hana
Molis GAGAME - Koloale
Coach - Luke EROI
Assistant Coach - Batram SURI
Team Manager - Gideon OMOKIRIO