Christchurch, New Zealand shooting attack: New Zealand futsal goalkeeper, Atta Elayyan, among dead.
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)
Hi all! This weekend we will watch a great match from New Zealand, a boiling national and political rivalry in Israel and an opening encounter in Nicaragua.
(All the hours are in CET local time)
Amateur (Like these misses)
What? Team Wellington – Auckland City (New Zealand Football Championship)
When? Sunday, 0200
Where? David Farrington Park, Wellington
Why? Being ranked 1st, Auckland City wants to win the league once again. Team Wellington from the 3rd place, with just three points less than the leaders, will host them and will try to get closer to their first ever title.
Key Players: Ben Harris, Team Wellington’ striker, played last season in the English non-league side Hampton & Richmond Borough and now he is the top scorer of the New Zealand league. Auckland City has Ryan De Vries, 24 years old player that already has 6 league titles, winning them consecutively since 2010.
The Champion of Champions: Ramon Tribulietx, the Spanish manager of Auckland City, hold the world record for most continental titles – 5 OFC Champions League titles.
Professional (like this guy)
What? Beitar Jerusalem – Bnei Sakhnin (Israeli Ligat Ha'al)
When? Monday, 1950
Where? Hamoshava Stadum, Petah Tikva
Why? One of the hardest national and political rivalries in world of football will be played Monday in a neutral pitch, since the Jerusalemites are suffering a radius ban for their home games, due to their fans' behavior. Beitar Jerusalem, recognized with the right-wing camp in Israel, will play against Bnei Sakhnin, the biggest Israeli-Arab club in the country, whose fans often identify with the Palestinian national cause. Beitar ranked in 3rd place, wishing for Europa League spot, while Bnei Sakhnin is in 11th place, just one point above the relegation zone.
Key Players:Beitar's Omer Atzili is one of the hot prospects of the Israeli football at the moment, starring at the top tier and the Israeli U21 national team. Weaam Amasha will be the guy to watch in Sakhnin as he is the leading scorer of the club with 6 goals.
Red and Yellow: Khaled Khalaila, Bnei Sakhnin’s captain, is known as one of the most aggressive players in Israel. He was topping the league’s yellow cards table for 4 seasons, including a one record breaking season with 17 yellow cards.
World Class (like this goal)
What? UNAN Managua – Managua FC (Nicaraguan Primera División)
When? Sunday, 0200
Where? Estadio Olímpico del IND Managua, Managua
Why? The opening matchday of the Clausura will gather reigning champion UNAN Managua with their city rivals, Managua FC, who had a bad Apertura campaign. Derby time!
Key Players: Jonathan Donado was one of the leading players in UNAN Managua during the title’s journey, scoring 10 goals, 3 of them in playoffs. If you are looking for Nicaraguan football next generation, look at Kevin Serapio of Managua FC, 19 years old midfielder that plays at the U20 national team.
Ladies First: UNAN Managua won their first ever title in the last Apertura, but the women's team is the strongest team in the country, with 11 championships.
One weekend, three games, Worldwide. All the information.
The big leagues of Europe are in a break, but BabaGol never stops. This weekend we will be with an old-fashioned derby in Kolkata, with the Australian league to check the big changes in the game over there, and we could not miss the international clashes, so we have an exotic one. Let's go!
(All the hours are in CET local time)
Saturday, 1200, Mohun Bagan – East Bengal (Indian I-League)
With all the respect to the ISL, we prefer the original football, where players play for their clubs and people, and not for their bucks. On Saturday, the I-League will provide us an extremely hot match, the derby of Kolkata. Mohun Bagan, the league leaders, will face their local rivals, East Bengal who are placed in the 5th place with 5 points behind.
Mohun Bagan, established in 1899, is one of the oldest clubs in Asia. Historically, the team represented the Western areas of Bengal region, and the fans of the team were known as the rich people of the region. Last season, Mohun Bagan had troubles and almost relegated, but now they came back to the top places of the table, wishing for first title since 2009. This season had extraordinary opening for the club with record of 5 wins and 3 draws. The biggest names of the team are Kingshuk Debnath, who led Atletico de Kolkata to the ISL title, Katsumi Yusa, Japanese foreign player that even played a season in Paraguay, and Pierre Boya, who made long trip in Europe while playing in Serbia, France, Romania and Austria.
East Bengal is the complete opposite of its municipal rival. The team was founded as a response to the rich people club, Mohun Bagan. Like their name, they represent the poor Eastern parts of Bengal region, including a small part of Bangladesh. With only one defeat, East Bengal wants to make another step to its first title since 2004. They finished as the runner-ups in three out of the four previous seasons. Pay attention to Ranti Martins, who scored 12 goals in eight league games, Milan Susak, a Croatian-Australian player who played also in Serbia and Germany, and Deepak Mondal, who capped 62 times for the Indian national team.
This derby is everything for true football lovers, a clash between tradition and money to hard-day workers and low class people. Time for a revolution?
Sunday, 0600, Wellington Pheonix – FC Sydney (Australian A-League)
It's amazing how quickly things can change in football. Few weeks ago, Adelaide United and Perth Glory were here as league leaders, but now they are part from a close race in the top of the league. In case you forgot, the two top teams will qualify automatically to the playoff’ semifinals, while the next four teams will play in the quarterfinals. On Sunday, Wellington Phoenix and FC Sydney will play for the semifinals spots.
Wellington Pheonix is the guest franchise at A-League, as they are basedfrom New Zealand. The team didn't qualified to the playoffs since 2012, and in the past two seasons they even finished in the bottom of the table. The Phoenix are the current league leader with 42 points, and they want to increase the gap in order to confirm their semifinals spot. By the way, this weekend their reserve team will play in the New Zealand league playoffs, which means that the team can win playoff’s promotion simultaneously in two different nations. The top players of the team are Nathan Burns, the team top scorer with 13 league goals, Roy Krishna, Fiji international player who played in New Zealand during previous seasons, and Roly Bonevacia, 23, a Dutch youngster who played in Ajax youth teams.
While Wellington is leading the table, FC Sydney is in the race for the 2nd place. They are on 3rd place with 38 points, same as the 2nd and the 4th places, and one point ahead of the 5th place. As a team from New Zealand, Wellington Phoenix cannot qualify to the AFC Champions League, so 2nd place will also guarantee a spot for next season's Champions League group stage. The team will missed few of its stars such as Saša Ognenovski, who is injured, and Marc Janko, who will play with his national team in Austria, but still they have some good players. The Serbian duo, Nikola Petković, who played in Germany and Turkey, and Miloš Dimitrijević, who played in France, Shane Smeltz, who played 51 times for New Zealand national team, and Ivan Necevski, who was the goalkeeper in Sydney's last title.
Every week the ladder is changing, the battle for each playoff spot is getting harder. There is no doubt. This match will be intense and decisive.
Monday, 0300, Honduras – French Guiana (CONCACAF Gold Cup Play-offs)
While the lower-ranked teams of CONCACAF will play their first qualifiers for 2018 World Cup, two teams will play for the last spot in the 2015 Gold Cup, which will took place this summer. The 5th placed team in the Copa Centroamericana, Honduras, will play against the 5th ranked team in the Caribbean Cup, French Guiana. French Guiana’s victory 3:1 in the first leg was a complete sensation, so Honduras needs to win their home match.
Honduras is one of the best teams in CONCACAF. They qualified for the last two World Cups, and in four out of the last five Gold Cups, they finished in the 3rd place. Now, before they start their road to the third consecutive World Cup, they will try to qualify once again, to the continental championships. Their newly appointed coach is Jorge Luis Pinto, the Colombian who led Costa Rica to the quarterfinals in the last World Cup. The key players of the team are Noel Valladares, who made 126 appearances for the national team, Maynor Figueroa, who plays for Hull City, Emilio Izaguirre, who plays for Celtic, and the talented hot prospect Andy Najar from Anderlecht.
On the other hand, French Guiana will try to make a history, and qualify for the first time to the competition. The national football association is a full member of CONCACAF, but they will not play in the World Cup qualifiers, as they are not FIFA members. Don't forget that French Guiana is a French Oversea Department, and the local football association is kind of a local branch of the French association. The squad is mainly composed by players who play in the domestic league, but there are some players who play in France such as Ludovic Ball from Lens, Donovan Léon from Auxerrre, Sloan Privat from Caen and Simon Falette from Brest.
A team with a major experience against a tiny team with big expectations, and both will play for the last spot. Should be a tough one!