Editorial Comment – Learning from the Kiwis

Jacob Seninawanawa dribbles during the Fiji FA U17 training at the Fiji FA Academy Grounds. Picture: JONA KONATACI

Fiji under-17 coach Sunil Kumar believes the Baby Bula Boys learnt a lot of lessons in their 1-4 loss to New Zealand in the OFC semi-finals on Wednesday.

New Zealand dominated the game, coming off with a display of structured soccer. “We had a pretty slow start, even though we were able to equalise. But from there the boys played really well and were able to hold the fort until the sound of the hooter,” Kumar said. He said the Kiwis had allowed the players to see their weaknesses, leaving space for improvement.

“The boys were heart-broken, they were really looking forward to the game and expected to win on their home soil, but New Zealand was the better team.” For whatever it is worth, New Zealand were strong.

They played structured soccer, keeping the ball alive with controlled passes. They kept their composure throughout, controlled the game, and never looked like losing. Their game was a far contrast to the kick and chase style Fiji fell back on for a better part of the game.

While we scored a lovely goal in the first spell, it was clear we will need more exposure at this level to lift our game, give our players confidence, and nurture a yearning for constructive soccer.

There were many lessons to learn from a Kiwi side that showed depth, and good ball control. They were running impressive lines, fed off the confidence of team mates, and kept Fiji under pressure.

We look to the powers that be to empower our team, give them more exposure at this level, nurture good ball skills, raise our defensive efforts, and better control of the ball. Let’s get away from the high kicks into enemy territory, hoping that at least one of our players will contest for, and regain possession.

Let’s nurture confidence in our players, empowering them to believe in themselves, develop passing skills, and ball retention.

Let’s work on our players, and develop their ball control. We actually have the base for development.

The challenge is going to be on nurturing a style that gets away from Wednesday’s kick and chase effort.

We have the makings of a team that can be developed to raise our profile on the international scene.

New Zealand showed that it can be done.

They were playing great soccer.

They were confident, composed, and were obviously well trained. On Wednesday, they were too good. That’s the level of soccer we should be aiming for. That’s something our youngsters should target.

We feel for the boys. However, we now look up to the coaches and trainers, and the governing body to develop our game, and our youngsters.

We wish the Kiwis well on the journey to Peru for the World Cup, and we wish our young warriors well in their future endeavors.

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