It will be a new-look Solomon Islands squad that arrives in Vanuatu for the Oceania Under 20 men’s football championship.
Defender Richard Raramo and forward Larry Zama are the only two players from last year’s national under 17 squad to have made the step up to the next level, while none of the final squad featured for the senior team at the OFC Nations Cup.
Spanish coach Pedro Mateo, who has worked with youth and academy teams at Chelsea and Barcelona, said when he arrived in Honiara two months ago a wider-training squad had already been selected and he then chose the final 20 on merit.
“We had almost 50 players that we finally decide to cut to 20 because of the number that we can send to Vanuatu. I’m really happy with the improvement of the players because the last two months they worked very hard to understand the ideas that I wanted to transmit to them because this is maybe a lot of things that I have tried to transfer into training during everyday since I arrived, it’s new for them,” he said.
“And I think I would say the last two weeks we have started to digest and understand what I wanted. I’m very happy, I’m proud of these players.
“They didn’t tell me which players were in the last Under 17 (national squad) because I wanted not to have pressure to select the players…it was my choice with my technical staff and something that I would like to see in the future of course is that most of the players that are in the Under 17, Under 15 or Under 20s make the next level because that would be good news for the Football Federation.”
Pedro Mateo said their first target is to qualify for the semi finals, which means finishing in the top two in Group B.
The Solomon Islands take on Tahiti this Saturday in their opening game before matches against Cook Islands and New Zealand.