The National – Wednesday, December 8, 2010
By HENRY MORABANG in Abu Dhabi, UAE
OCEANIA champions MRDC Hekari United head into tonight’s opening match as underdogs against Al Wadha in the FIFA Club World Cup opener in Abu Dhabi.
Hekari and the African champion from Congo, TP Mazembe were first two of the seven clubs to arrive in Abu Dhabi on Monday evening.
Senior Hekari official Seamus Marten told Radio Australia’s Geraldine Coutts in an interview yesterday that his side was preparing for the match with victory in mind.
“We’re confident; you don’t come to a competition like this and don’t expect to win.
“We’re here for business; we’ve known we’d be playing this match since May.
“A lot of time and effort has gone into the preparation. We had a first up loss in our opening competitive match this season, 2-1 against Amicale, but since that loss, we’ve managed to put six victories together,” Marten said.
The PNG side are quietly confident of a good showing having been in the region since the beginning of the month, they played a warm-up match in Qatar last Friday beating a Qatari Armed Forces XI 2-0.
“We were lucky enough to have a 2-0 victory in that match.
“We fielded our strongest 11 for the first half, rung the changes in the second half and I guess, lost a bit of shape.
“But in the opening stages when we took an early two-goal lead, we were comfortable and the opposition didn’t really have too many answers, so it bodes well for our confidence and got a feel of what the type of player that we’re likely to come up against Al Wahda,” Marten said.
He added the weather conditions did take some getting used to but the players were settling in well.
“The players themselves, during the day, have no issues. The temperature was similar to Port Moresby.
“The difference is when the sun sets the temperatures really drop, here in Abu Dhabi, and with the match being played in the evening, it is good for us just to get some training sessions under the lights under our belt and just acclimatise to those slightly cooler temperatures in the evening.”
The team has no major injury concerns with only Kema Jack (hamstring strain) and Trevor Ire (flu) sitting out training yesterday but expected to be fully fit come game time.
In the pre-match press conference yesterday at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in front of the international media, Hekari coach Tommy Mana said his team would give their best against a fully professional outfit in Al Wadha.
Mana said Hekari’s win at O-League was the club’s greatest achievement to date but the game against Al Wadha would be another milestone for the PNG champions.
Hekari’s hopes rest primarily on the attacking prowess of their Pacific Island players in Osea Vakatalesau (Fiji) and midfielder Henry Fa’arodo (Solomon Islands) while captain David Muta will lead by example.
Alvin Singh (Fiji), Gideon Omokirio (Solomon Islands) and Koriak Upaiga form a dependable defensive unit which is likely to be tested throughout the encounter.
Al-Wadha will be banking on its three foreign players Fernando Baiano, Hugo Henrique and Marcio Magrao with Baiana described as “goal-scoring machine”. Another plus for the home side is that almost all of their indigenous players have donned national colours for UAE.
Hekari (possible starting line-up): Simione Tamanisau (goalkeeper), Pita Bolatoga, Gideon Omokirio, Alvin Singh, Koriak Upaiga (defenders) Kema Jack, David Muta, Abraham Iniga, Henry Fa’arodo (midfielder) Osea Vakatalesau, Malakai Tiwa (strikers).
Martens said the mood was very positive and an upset could be on the cards for Hekari.
“We’ve taken heart from the example of Spain, who dropped their opening match in the World Cup in South Africa to Switzerland, and then five matches later they became world champions,” Martens said drawing some inspiration.
“It just goes to show that the way you react to disappointment and to losses bodes well for the team’s character, and I think tonight really the training session we’ve done, and you can probably tell by the tone in my voice, that there is a great feeling amongst the camp.
“The team is buzzing.
“The mood from the opposition I guess is one of unease given Auckland City’s performance last year where they knocked out the host, Al Ahli, also from the UAE, there’s a lot of pressure domestically for Al Wahda to perform.
“There are no two ways about it, we’re the underdog, we are the minnows, PNG is rated 204 in the world – the bottom of the world – the rest of the world internationally looks down at PNG.
“So everything points on paper to a victory for Al Wahda, but the reality is we are confident and we do believe all the pressure is on them to perform and we enter the game fearless and looking for a positive result,” Martens said.
The match will be played at 8pm local time (2am Thursday PNG time) with EMTV to replay the match later in the day.