Gillet Looking Forward To Australia Challenge

Allan Gillet has the unenviable job of trying to cause what would arguably be the biggest upset in world football, when his Solomon Island team try to beat Australia in the upcoming 2004 OFC Nations Cup Final.

Allan Gillet has the unenviable job of trying to cause what would arguably be the biggest upset in world football, when his Solomon Island team try to beat Australia in the upcoming 2004 OFC Nations Cup Final.   Gillet, who led the Solomons in Adelaide, where they surprised everybody by holding Australia to a 2-2 draw and thus qualifying for the final at the expense of Australia-s traditional rival New Zealand.   The two teams meet in a home and away final, with the first match being played in Honiara on October 9, with the return leg in Sydney three days on October 12. The winner will not only be crowned OFC Nations Cup Champions, but will also be the final team to qualify for the 2005 Confederations Cup in Germany.   As a result, Australia-s coach Frank Farina is taking no chances, naming a full strength squad for the two games and Gillet knows the task of upsetting Australia will be an extremely difficult one.   Gillet, has only just arrived back in the Solomons, after completing several tasks as part of his role with the English FA, since guiding the team into the final last June in Adelaide.   “It-s really good to get back to the players because since Adelaide, they-ve coasted and I really mean coasted,” Gillet said from Brisbane, where the team played a match overnight against the Brisbane Wolves, which ominously enough they lost 2-0.   “I am very pleased to be back because I wanted to meet the challenge of Australia, although people think I-m crazy because they think I should have finished on a high note (Adelaide). But I think it-s a great adventure and I really don-t know how far these boys can go.”   The match against the Wolves last night, was the first of three games, Gillet will use as preparation for the matches against Australia, with the squad going onto Singapore today, where they will play against the Under 23 and the senior team.   “We-ve got the Singapore Under 23 and then their senior team on Saturday (25th) and the Monday (27th) and obviously I shall be training as well. We are back into Honiara on the 30th and straight into camp.”   While Gillet admits last night-s loss to the Wolves doesn-t look good, he did however get some positives out of it, especially as it was the teams first run out since Adelaide.   “They (Brisbane Wolves) played very well. They drafted in a couple of good players to strengthen their side, but it was certainly a different side to the one they brought over to Honiara before Stage 1 (World Cup qualifiers).   “Overall the whole evening was a very good exercise for us and as that was our first competitive game since Adelaide, so I thought it did us a big, big favour. I think we-ve learned quite a lot from the tough game we had last night.   “I mean when I first got to the Solomons back in February, if a goal had gone in against them they would have packed up, but there was no packing up last night and we created a lot of chances and played right to the end.”   Unfortunately for Gillet, he has had little time to prepare the team for the two matches and expectations are very high in a country where big sporting moments are very few and far between.   “I-ve got members of parliament talking about going to Germany and members of the public talking about the World Cup, which makes it hard. I have to say to the squad, you take one game at a time. It-s like the old clique, but they are in preparation for the Confederation Cup play-off, they have now got to go to Singapore and they shouldn-t look any further than that.”   “Australia is the biggest game they-ve ever played and that-s what we are heading towards. We have got the whole of the nation waiting for it and I am just saying to the players, these are the people you are representing, you can-t let them down.   “Realistically though we are playing against a side full of players from Europe who are seasoned professionals, so it-s an amazing task.”   There is no doubt the first leg in Honiara will be crucial to his side-s competitiveness over the two legs with Socceroos coach Frank Farina, openly concerned by the conditions the match will be played in. Kick-off in Honiara will be at 2.00pm in about 35-degree heat and the humidity high as well. Asked about the atmosphere and conditions and whether it would be a huge factor for them, Gillet was optimistic.   “I am hoping for that to be the case, but I am sure Frank Farina will know the scenario there. It-s going to be uncomfortable for them (Australia).   “However I think it is also going to be fairly uncomfortable for the Solomon Islanders, because Australia are full of such technically good players, they are going to have the ball and we are going to have chase them. We-re also going to have to work hard in 35- degree heat at 2 o-clock in the afternoon, so I am not sure the idea of kicking off at that time is going to do us major favours.   “The Football Federation has made up its mind that they think this is there biggest chance to put the Australian side out in the 2 o-clock sun and hope that makes them wilt. I said to them that these guys are highly experienced European players, they train pre-season in 30 degree heat and the Italian guys now are training in that sort of temperature, but I suppose the proof in the pudding will be when we play the game won-t it.”   While Gillet is a realist and knows his team faces a huge mountain to overcome, he is also not interested in hearing what he would consider a honourable loss would be.   “I don-t prepare any side to lose,” he said.   “What I actually want from the home game, is for the people to be proud of their team, for the occasion to actually carry on from where it started in Adelaide. The people have high hopes for the development of football in the country and I want to come away from the home game with that plan still in progress.   “If we get thumped in Honiara, that will not do anything for the development of football in the country any good. I still want us to be in the competition when we go to Sydney, to make it a close game.”   For this to happen, Gillet will need his most experienced players to lead from the front.   “The senior players like Batrum Suri and Commins Menapi (pictured above on far right), along with the senior boys at the back, they are the experienced players there.   “I made seven changes at half time last night and those two sat on the bench and watched the squad players do very well, so from that point of view I was very pleased.”   Gillet also allayed any fears about the playing surface and security issues.   “It (the pitch) is like a bowling green, there won-t be any complaints on the playing surface and I think the atmosphere will be great for the Aussies. It won- be intimidating like some of the European venues they play in. I just think it will be a great occasion.   “And as far as security concerns, I don-t think so. The police had got it well monitored, a FIFA guy has been out to look at the security arrangements and the stadium. We did Stage 1, so that was a good experience for this big game, but obviously this one-off game is going to be massive for us.”   The likeable Englishman also did not want to be drawn in on what the future holds for him in a year-s time when the two teams will meet again for a place at the 2006 World Cup.   “I don-t like to speculate. At the moment this is a great adventure and I am loving every minute of it.”