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Yes, it's the end of May, and it means that the Weekend Guide will take his break as the season is done. But don't worry, we would not leave you like this in empty hands - a special guide dedicated to the opening games of the first international tournament this summer – the OFC Nations Cup. All the matches will take place at Sir Johan Guise Stadium in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
(All the hours are in CET local time)
What? New Zealand – Fiji
When? Saturday, 0800
Why? New Zealand, the dominant national team in Oceania since Australia left to the AFC, try to retain the title after their failure in the previous tournament. Fiji is one of the emerging powers in the continent, after qualifying to the 2015 U-20 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic tournament.
Key Players: In New Zealand squad you can find their hot prospect for the future, Bill Tuiloma, Marseille’s 21 years old midfielder who spent last season on loan to Strasbourg. Iosefo Verevou is just 20 years old but has enough international experience with two goals in the U-20 World Cup.
Pacific Touch:2015 OFC Champions League, the defender of Samoan champions, Lupe ole Soaga can't handle the Fijian runner-ups Ba and their striker Saula Waqa.
What? Vanuatu – Solomon Islands
When? Saturday, 1100
Why? In 2004 OFC Nations Cup, Solomon Islands gained a surprising draw against Australia in the final game, which led them to the 2nd place ahead of New Zealand. Vanuatu's football is making a great progress, as their leading team Amicale qualified to the Champions League final twice in last few years. There is certainly a hope that the national team will do the same.
Key Players: Jean Kaltack scored 9 goals in 8 caps as Vanuatu international player, but he well remembered due to his enormous performance with 16 goals while winning 46:0 against Micronesia in the Pacific Games last year. Henry Fa'arodo playing for Solomon Islands since 2002 and he can't be stopped as he’s about to break the caps record for.
Pacific Touch: 2016 OFC Futsal Championship, in the last match against Fiji, the Solomon Islands showed to everyone why they are the Oceania champions 5 times by now.
What? Papua New Guinea – New Caledonia
When? Sunday, 0800
Why? The host nation will try to show their skills and win an OFC Nations Cup match for the first time since 1980, under the guidance of the Danish manager Flemming Serritslev. New Caledonia still has memories from their sensational win against New Zealand in the last tournament semifinals.
Key Players: 21 years old Alwin Komolong played for all the youth level teams and is ready for his senior debut cap. He is the only player in his team playing abroad, as he plays for Northern Kentucky University team. As a French Oversea Department, New Caledonia have the midfielder César Zeoula, who plays since 2011 in Stade Lavallois of the French Ligue 2.
Pacific Touch: 2013 OFC U-17 Championship, it's not so common to see a Papua New Guinea victory, but Nicky Benjamin made his team dream a bit before conceding the equalizer.
What? Tahiti – Samoa
When? Saturday, 1100
Why? Four years ago, Tahiti won a historical title, after defeating New Caledonia 1:0. Now they wish to have another sensational tournament. Samoa qualified through the first round, clinching their spot by goal difference over American Samoa and Cook Islands.
Key Players: The Tahitian veteran striker, Steevy Chong Hue, is still here and wants to score 4 goals in this tournament in order to become the national team all-time top scorer. Andrew Mobberly was the leading name in the first round for Samoa, as he also plays for the New Zealand top-tier side, Southern United.
Pacific Touch: 2015 OFC U-20 Women's Championship, Vanuatu leads 3:2 against Samoa, and then, in the 96th minute, Matalena Daniels took this free kick.
Thumbnail photo by Oceania Football Confederation (OFC)
One weekend, three games, Worldwide. All the information.
During the mid-week we all saw the 0:0 between Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid, in what was a great chance to take a nap. In order to make things right, BabaGol is taking you to three matches who has a little bit from that match. For a curt of European football we will go to Moldova, for a taste of Champions League we’ll sail to Oceana, and for a hot derby we will ride our camels to Jordan. It’s time to wake up!
(All the hours are in CET local time)
Friday, 1500, Dacia Chișinău – Sheriff Tiraspol (Moldovan Divizia Națională)
On Friday, the two biggest clubs of Moldova will play each other.When Dacia Chișinău and Sheriff Tiraspolare about to meet it is more than a simple football rivalry. This match is the clash between Chișinău, the capital of Moldova, and Tiraspol, the capital of the separatist Transistria.
Dacia Chișinău became the strongest team in the city 10 years ago, after their city rival, Zimbru, didn't manage to repeat achievements from the foundation of the Moldovan football. They usually finish in the top places of the league, but except from one title in 2013, they failing against the eternal champions of the league, Sheriff Tiraspol. This season they are in 2nd place, just 1 point behind the surprising leader, Milsami Orhei. The leading players are David Siradze, the veteran Georgian player who played in Germany, Jaba Dvali, another Gerogian who won titles in his home nation and Azerbaijan, and Petru Leucă, the leading scorer of the team with 6 goals.
The Story of Sheriff Tiraspol is much more complicated. Tiraspol is the capital of Transistria, a region with a Slavic majority, unlike the rest of Moldova, where there is a Romanian majority. Transistria is claiming for independence, but still doesn't get recognized by any nation. The name of the club is derived from Sheriff Company, which formed by Victor Gușan, the club’s president. Except from the team, their holdings include a TV station, a petrol stations chain, many factories and some small companies. It's also claimed that the company is the actual govern in Transistria, being run mafia-style, and used as a tool to launder money. The team have won the last 13 out of 14 titles, and this season they are in the 3rd place, equaled to Dacia, but behind due to their head-to-head results. Pay attention to Ricardinho, league’s top scorer with 16 goals, Vadim Paireli, who an U-21 national starlet, and Juninho Potiguar, who arrived the team last season and already scored 17 goals in 29 matches.
This game is a chance of ‘once in a lifetime’ for a title in Dacia, can they make it or would it be another one for Sheriff?
Saturday, 0900, Amicale – Auckland City (OFC Champions League)
BabaGol makes a comeback to one of its favorite, our friends from Vanuatu, Amicale FC. The OFC Champions League group stage is played in a neutral venue in Suva, Fiji. The three group winners alongside with the best runner-ups will qualify to the semifinals. The decisive match for Amicale will be once again versus the New Zealand and Oceania Champions, Auckland City.
After the disaster of Cyclone Pam, Amicale will try to make the Vanuatu people a little happy. Amicale won their first two matches against the local team Suva and Western United from Solomon Islands, and want to qualify to the next stage and make one step further than last year- to win the title. In the domestic league, they won 5 consecutive titles and they are on the way to the 6th. Please notice Osea Vakatalesau, who scored 2 goals in the tournament, Alphonse Bongnaim, who played 11 times for Vanuatu national team, and Rijat Shala, Swiss-Kosovar player who was one of the biggest stars of the U-21 team in 2006, but since then played in Albania and the lower divisions of Italy.
Auckland City started their tournament in the same way. They also won twice in their first two matches, but a better goal difference place them in the top spot of the group, and a draw will be enough for qualification. They won the title in the past 4 seasons, and their semifinal appearance in FIFA Club World Cup makes them wish to win it once again. Their key players are Ivan Vicelich, who made 88 caps in New Zealand national team, Iván Carril, who arrived in January and already scored 4 goals in 6 league matches, David Browne, 19 years old hot prospect from Papua New Guinea, and Marko Đorđević, who won the last season Vanuatu championship with Amicale.
While UEFA Champions League quarter final is being played again in this week, trust me – the repeat of last season OFC Champions League final will be much more exciting.
Sunday, 1800, Al Faisaly – Al Wehdat (Jordan Premier League)
Big Arab rivalries always produce great matches, and for this exact reason we are going to Jordan. Sunday's "Derby of Jordan" which being played in the capital Amman, has some strong nationalist characteristics. We already talked about the rivalry between Jordan and Palestine, who is the main issue of this game too – Al Faisaly represents the native nationalists Jordanians, while Al Wehdat represents the Palestinian refugees.
Al Faisaly is the strongest club in the Jordanian football history. They won 32 championships, 17 cups and two AFC Cups. This season the team is far from being one of the greatest in club’s history. With four wins and nine draws, they are ranked on the 8th place, just 5 points from relegation spots. In addition, they scored just 10 goals and have the worst attack in the league. The coach is Mohamed Azima, Egyptian retired-player who played in Germany for years. The team's main players are Hani Al Taiar, a key player in the U-17 Syrian national team appearance in 2007 U-17 World Cup, Jean Michel N'Lend, who arrived after 3 years in Al Shorta from Iraq, Baha' Abdel-Rahman, who played 72 times for Jordan national team, Mohammad Shatnawi, one of the greatest goalkeepers in Jordan.
Al Wehdat was always behind Al Faisaly, but they are progressing a lot in the past seasons. Last season they won their 13th title, and this season they are close to win another one, while leading by 7 points with 4 matches left. The team is based in Amman New Camp, known locally as Wehdat, which was established in 1955 for Palestinian refugees and today is one of the biggest refugee camps in Jordan, with 51,000 refugees registered. The coach, Abdullah Abu Zema, was Al Wehdat player for 12 years. The biggest names in the team are Amer Shafi, the most capped player in Jordan national team with 110 caps, Abdelatif Bahdari, who was born in Gaza and plays for Palestine national team, and Mahmoud Za'tara, a Jordanian-Palestinian who is considered to be one of the biggest hopes of the Jordanian football.
Like in our previous visits in the Middle East, you can feel the passion in this match. Nationalism, local prestige and title aspirations. Just couldn't ask for more, could you?