Tonga’s Veitongo hunting for victory

Veitongo FC face a must-win situation when they meet Tupapa Maraerenga FC in their OFC Champions League 2020 Qualifying Stage match in Auckland on Friday.

Only a victory will see the Tongan club grab the final spot on offer in the group stages of this year’s competition.

After losing their opening game of the three-team Qualifying Stage 2-0 to Lupe Ole Soaga SC, Veitongo have left themselves with an uphill task.

It won’t be easy against Tupapa, who hail from the Cook Islands, and it may come down to which team can best adapt to the turf underfoot at the Ngahue Reserve.

Most of the players in both squads are used to playing on grass pitches and the artificial turf has added an extra twist to the Qualifying Stage.

Veitongo coach Mark Uhatahi said they took some valuable lessons from last Saturday’s defeat to Lupe.

“We’ve learnt from this game and we’ll work on the mistakes that we made in this one and learn from it for the next game,” he said.

Veitongo play a physical brand of football and they boast a collection of strong players that are solid on the ball, particularly through the middle of the pitch.

Tupapa coach Anthony Samuela wanted his side to be clinical in front of goal against Veitongo.

“I think we need to get more in the front third and finish our goals and just go from there,” he said.

Tupapa drew 0-0 with Lupe in Auckland on Tuesday, a result that ensured Lupe qualified for the OFC Champions League 2020.

That stalemate also means that Tupapa only need a draw against Veitongo to advance to the Champions League; they’ve qualified for the group stages for the past two editions.

Tupapa looked sound defensively against Lupe with Australian-based centre back Jake Stuart proving tough to get past, while midfielder Grover Harmon showed flashes of creativity.

The winners of the Qualifying Stage will join Group D, while the runner-up will enter Group C.

In the Champions League, Group A will play their matches in Papua New Guinea between February 16-22 with Group B set to take place in Vanuatu from February 15-21. New Caledonia will host Group C, and Group D will be contested in Tahiti with both groups running between March 1-7.

The top two sides from each group will progress to the quarter-finals, which will be played between April 4-5 with the semifinals to be contested on April 25-26. The final is scheduled for May 16.


Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek Caption: Veitongo FC goalkeeper Sinilau Taufa was kept busy during his side's loss to Lupe Ole Soaga SC last Saturday.