“Biggest win in international football” was the headline around the world when the Bula Boys of Fiji hammered Micronesia 38-0 at the Pacific Games last year. Fiji went on to win the tournament by beating Vanuatu 4-3 on penalties thus becoming the first country other than Australia or New Zealand to represent Oceania at the Olympic football tournament.
“For us it would be a chance to compete at the highest level of football in our own [football] history.”
“The fact that we have qualified from our region means that we have potential.”, said the Fiji captain Roy Krishna.
Krishna’s confidence and optimism are not ill-founded; Fiji took part in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand last year and managed to shock the football world by beating Honduras 3-0. The heroes of the U-20 World Cup campaign make up the bulk of Fiji’s Olympic football squad.
Coached by former Socceroos boss Frank Farina, this team is not afraid to pass the ball around even when they are pinned in their own half. Instead of opting to boot the ball forward, the Bula Boys like to use their individual skills to make their way out of trouble and counter their opponents with short passes.
As the only full-time professional football player, Roy Krishna – who plies his trade in the A-League with Wellington Phoenix – is one of three wildcard players.
The 28-year-old has made 27 appearances for his country and scored impressive 19 goals. As the captain, Roy Krishna has a huge role to play for his team at the Olympics but he is relishing the responsibility and challenge ahead.
“My role is to ensure that our team stay focused and positive.”, the speedy forward told The Tavern.
“I know the strengths of our players and I will make sure that we capitalise on our strengths and communicate with them during the games.”
When asked about his Australian coach Frank Farina, Krishna had this to say;
“Frank is very knowledgeable; he is very strategic and demands a lot from us.”
The head coach Frank Farina knows well about these important international tournaments. Farina previously coached Australia (took them to two Confederations Cups and the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens) and himself has represented Australia at the Olympic Games back in 1988 in Seoul.
Although an unknown quantity, the prospect of facing this Fiji team is not likely to worry their opponents too much. With the population of just under 900,000 people, Fiji appears to be facing an uphill battle as they take on London 2012 gold medalists Mexico, World Cup holders Germany and London 2012 bronze medalists South Korea. However, there is always the danger of underestimating how much luck and chance impacts the game of football.
The upcoming Olympic campaign in Brazil will be a huge challenge for Fiji, but it is definitely an opportunity for this Pacific Island nation to gain international exposure and experience.
“It’s about national pride.”
“Being from a nation so far away from the world of football, we are definitely punching above our weight but we have the support of all Fijians who will be watching our games and cheering for us back home.”
Finally, Krishna had this to say; “We may be underdogs to the world and we come from a nation that is mad about rugby but we [Fiji football team] have the same passion as our rugby team who are world champions.”
Fiji U-23 squad for Rio 2016
GK: Shaneel Naidu, Simione Tamanisau*
DF: Filipe Baravilala, Jale Dreloa, Praneel Naidu, Alvin Singh*, Antonio Tuivuna, Kolinio Sivoki
MF: Nickel Chand, Setareki Hughes, Savaneca Nakavelu, Joseph Turagabeci, Tevita Waranaivalu
FW: Roy Krishna*, Anish Khem, Samuela Nabenia, Iosefo Verevou, Saula Waqa
Korea U-23 will play vs Fiji U-23 on August 4th 20:00 local time at Fonte Nova Arena in Salvador, Brazil.