Solomon Islands Profile
The Solomon Islands are on the verge of achieving something remarkable. In eleven Oceania World Cup qualification campaigns, never has the opportunity for an upset been so prominent as it is now.
The Solomon Islands are on the verge of achieving something remarkable.
In eleven Oceania World Cup qualification campaigns, never has the opportunity for an upset been so prominent as it is now.
Essentially, the soccer mad population of 510,000 that reside in the tropical splendour of the Solomon Islands are 90 minutes away from celebrating their progression to the next stage of qualifiers for Germany 2006.
Their task is not an easy one though.
In their way are the Socceroos, the unquestionable giants of the Oceania region who will be looking to see out the Adelaide tournament with a 100% record against their the best from their confederation.
Regardless, the Solomons are within a breath of achieving the most astounding success in their colorful history and a positive result today would send their already enthused public into delirium. Prior to the commencement of this tournament, the Solomons success on the world stage had been very limited, with their first tilt at a World Cup spot arriving in 1992 when attempting to qualify for USA 94-.
It must be said that the Solomons got off to quite a reasonable start.
In their opening match against Australia, the Solomons were unlucky to go down 2-1 in the dying minutes, thanks to a last gasp goal from Tommy McCulloch.
The Socceroos reversed the Honiara score line 6-1 in Newcastle three weeks later to draw curtains on the Solomons first World Cup matches.
The next Solomons World Cup adventure began in 1997 and was a far less happy one for the Melanesians.
Having seen their way through a tough Melanesian preliminary group, the Solomons came to Parramatta, where they met Australia and Tahiti in a round robin where only the group winner progressed to the next stage.
The Solomons first up 13-0 drubbing at the hands of the Socceroos was a fair indication of the resistance offered by the Solomons at this meet, although they did recover somewhat to post a credible 6-2 loss the next time they met with the home team.
Fast track another four years and the Solomons were this time vying for a place at Korea/Japan 2002.
After being grouped with New Zealand, Tahiti, Vanuatu and the Cook Islands, the Solomons finished a disappointing third place, having surrendered their early advantage after losing to Tahiti and the hosts in their last two matches.
As far as the OFC Nations Cup is concerned, the Solomons have been slightly more successful, but not altogether convincing.
They failed to qualify for the 1998 tournament in Brisbane but recovered to claim third spot two years later in Papeete, their highest international honor to date.
The 2002 tournament in Auckland was a forgettable one, after the Solomons exited at the group stage having failed to win one of their three matches.
It is fair to say that the Solomons are the great underachievers of the Oceania region. Their raw talent exists in abundance and their will to succeed is notable.
After so many disappointing campaigns, the Solomons look to have finally put things right and their fanatical home fans lay the credit squarely at the feet of new coach Alan Gillett.
Gillett has, overnight it seems, transformed the Solomons from an age of indifference (highlighted most recently by their 1-0 loss to Samoa in the Olympic games qualifiers) to a period of prosperity.
He has already steered the Solomons through stage one of Oceania-s qualifying path, conceding just one goal along the way, to Adelaide, where they have diligently disposed of all of their island counterparts, only to have lost to New Zealand in round two, despite dominating much of the match.
Before the loss to the All Whites, Gillett was at the Solomons helm for their longest ever unbeaten run - seven matches that started and finished with wins against traditional rivals Vanuatu.
The chances of a Solomons uprising have been known for while now and many will see their success in Adelaide as just rewards for a period where, at youth level, the Solomons showed much promise.
This was exemplified in early 2003, where the Solomons under 17 side, featuring current defensive linchpin Nelson Sale, held New Zealand to a 0-0 draw at the Sunshine Coast after putting one past the Qantas Joeys en route to a 3-1 loss in round one.
This years Solomons under 23 team, although disappointing as far as results are concerned, featured some of the brightest individual talent seen anywhere in Oceania.
Alick Maemae, who plays with Koloale in the Solomon Islands S-League, is touted as one of the rising stars of Oceanic soccer and has been one of the highlights of the Solomons Adelaide campaign.
Then, there is Australian based youngster Henry Fa-arodo, who has previously enjoyed a stint with National Soccer League outfit the Melbourne Knights, although has since returned to his original Australian club, Victorian Premier League side Fawkner Blues.
Fa-arodo is not the only NSL experienced Solomons player though.
In actual fact, the current Solomons lineup features more NSL pedigree than any other on show in Adelaide, which has clearly contributed to their encouraging results so far in the tournament.
Captain Batram Suri was one of the original Football Kingz lineup when they entered the NSL in 1999/00 and strike partner Commins Menapi was an integral member of Sydney United-s team from the 2000/01 season onwards.
The Solomons are now under pressure like never before.
With an army of fanatics hanging on their every movement back home, a positive result today is sure to be heard around the world.
The emergence of a unique soccer nation is just around the corner and tonight promises to be a true celebration of the beautiful game, regardless of the result.
When are your Caltex Socceroos in action this weekend?
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