Sport: Solomons adopt 'defend first' mentality for All Whites

11:50 am on 1 September 2017

The Solomon Islands will take a defensive mindset into tonight's FIFA World Cup Oceania qualifying final first leg against New Zealand in Auckland.

The All Whites won 1-0 when the teams last played at the 2016 OFC Nations Cup in Papua New Guinea and are strong favourites to progress to an intercontinental playoff against the fifth ranked team from South America, for a place at next year's World Cup in Russia.

Solomon Islands captain Henry Fa'arodo challenges for the ball against New Zealand at the OFC Nations Cup.

Solomon Islands captain Henry Fa'arodo challenges for the ball against New Zealand during the 2016 OFC Nations Cup. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Solomon Islands coach Felipe Vega-Arango has overseen back-to-back victories over Papua New Guinea since his appointment in April.

He said the Bonitos had a reputation for attacking football but will need to be more disciplined at the back to have any chance of causing an upset.

"I know that Solomons in the past was a happy team in attacking and not thinking much about defence but if you see professional football now most of the scores are 1-1, 1 [or] nothing to 1," he said.

"The number one thing is not allow the opposition to score because if the opposition scores a lot of goals you are dead.

"This is a two-match series and the most important thing for me right now it would be not to allow New Zealand to score and then we can go and we will play a final [match back at home with the result still on the line]."

Veteran striker Benjamin Totori will captain Solomon Islands against Papua New Guinea.

Benjamin Totori is familiar with New Zealand conditions. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

A number of the Solomon Islands squad is familiar with playing in New Zealand, and at the venues for tonight's match - North Harbour Stadium, including captain Henry Fa'arodo and former Wellington Phoenix striker Benjamin Totori.

An away goal could be a big boost to the side's qualifying hopes, but their Spanish coach urged caution.

"An away goal is good if they don't score on you or they score on you only one but if New Zealand beat us 6-1 that away goal means nothing," he said.

"So the most important thing for me is not to allow New Zealand to score any goals and if they score they have to score [only] one.

"An away goal is really important if it's 1-1 or something like that but if you score one goal and New Zealand score six or seven that away goal doesn't mean anything."

All Whites coach Anthony Hudson at the Confederations Cup 2017.

All Whites coach Anthony Hudson at the Confederations Cup 2017. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

All Whites coach Anthony Hudson was confident his side could put the tie beyond doubt with a strong performance tonight.

"We have the mindset that we want to go and finish the game off on Friday night," he said.

"We want to be strong, we want to be aggressive, we want to set the tempo of the game, we want to control the game and we want to push for the whole game to make sure that we have a big enough advantage [going into the second leg]."

New Zealand is missing a number of key players, including West Ham United defender Winston Reid, veteran striker Shane Smeltz and Holland-based attacking midfielder Marco Rojas.

Bonitos coach Vega Arango Alonso.

Bonitos coach Vega Arango Alonso. Photo: OFC Media

But Solomon Islands coach Felipe Vega-Arango said the All Whites were blessed with plenty of depth.

"They are missing some good players but the positive thing that New Zealand have that they call of their players that are in professional leagues," he said.

"One player is missing but they call in another one from Major League Soccer (in the USA and) sometimes those things go in your favour, speaking for the New Zealand side.

"Because the players coming up they want to show to the coach and to the fans and to the team that they can be really successful and they can be strong players in these kind of matches."

The visitors are also missing a key man with Micah Lea'alafa unable to join the team in New Zealand because of visa issues, but Vega-Arango said he would be .

"Even though he's under contract with Auckland City he needs to renew his working visa application and the working visa application takes a little longer than the other visa that the players get for coming here for the game," he said.

"Unfortunately it has not been in time and he will be missing this game, which is important for us because he is a player who lives in New Zealand and plays in New Zealand.

"He knows a lot of the players, he knows the conditions, he knows the weather, he knows the I hope the players that step in for him do a good job."

The return leg is in Honiara on Tuesday.

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