4 Jul 2016

Sport: OFC U17 Prelim to kick off after delay

1:54 pm on 4 July 2016

The Oceania Under 17 Championship Preliminary will finally kick off today in Apia after a two-day delay.

American Samoa, Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga are bidding for the final berth in next year's OFC Under 17 Men's Championship in Tahiti.

The tournament was meant to have kicked off on Saturday but was postponed by Oceania Football for 48 hours due to "unforeseen circumstances'.

Samoa coach Desmond Faaiuaso said the opening round of matches were delayed because their opening opponent, American Samoa, were hit by travel issues.

"It's a problem from American Samoa's booking. What I heard, American Samoa, their airfare - something like that... They arrived here on Saturday afternoon and half of their team (was) still in American Samoa and they arrived here late Saturday. They're all here now."

Desmond Faaiuaso said all but two of his players are new caps at Under 17 level so the extra couple of days worked in their favour.

"We just put together our team last week so it's good for us to get more time to work on our formation and gameplans and also just to put together the team and (be) ready for the tournament," he said.

"Most of our players this is the first time they're in front of their families and friends so it's kind of a little bit nervours for them but I keep telling them if they come do the best way they can play on the field."

American Samoa's squad includes a number of players who also turned out for the national under 20s squad in Tonga just over a week ago.

Coach Frederick Maiava believed his team will be competitive.

"We tied with Samoa back then (in 2013) but we had a chance to be champions in that tournament. Now as coach my feeling is that we can win," he said.

"It's been a long time since we have beaten Samoa and I think it's time. I am here to serve the players and develop the game and these players have the capacity to go on and win."

J.S. Blatter Football Complex in Apia, Samoa.

J.S. Blatter Football Complex in Apia, Samoa. Photo: Oceania Football

Cook Islands take on Tonga in the tournament opener this afternoon and have history on their side after making it through qualifying to take part in the 2013 Oceania Championship in Vanuatu.

Coach Richard Anderson says for most of his players it's the first time that they've been out of the country, never mind playing in an international tournament.

"We're very excited to be here for this tournament as the boys have worked hard," Anderson said.

Tonga's build-up to this event included a stop-over in New Zealand where they took on several club age-group sides.

The results were mixed but coach Timote Moleni says the focus was the process rather than the scores.

"When we look at the Cook Islands squad there's a number of overseas-based players but that's not a problem for us. They are very competitive - all of the teams are - but so are we and I think we can challenge them."

The tournament runs until Friday.