Fiji

The past
Fiji have a long and proud football tradition in Oceania but never before has the nation been represented at a FIFA tournament. The Melanesians boast a longer FIFA World Cup history than any other Pacific Islands nation, having first featured in 1981. Despite this historical advantage over their rivals, Fiji were never quite able to break the continental hegemony of either Australia or New Zealand, with Tahiti the only Oceanian nation outside the duo to previously feature at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Fiji’s first appearance in Oceania’s U-20 competition was way back in 1978 but despite several runners-up showings – including as recently as 2013 – they had to wait until 2014 for their breakthrough.

The present
With New Zealand hosting the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup, Oceania’s aspirants entered the May 2014 qualifiers in the knowledge they had an unusually elevated opportunity to win through to the global showpiece. Fiji produced a near-perfect campaign in the six-nation qualifying campaign on home soil, dropping just two points in a 2-2 draw against nearest challengers Vanuatu. Earlier they enjoyed comfortable victories over American Samoa (4-0), New Caledonia (2-0) and Papua New Guinea (3-0), before their nervy final-day 2-1 win over Solomon Islands created history.

The future
The current squad have enjoyed considerable preparation time and international exposure over recent years, perhaps more so than other Fijian teams historically. Ten players in the qualifiers were graduates of either the 2013 U-20 or U-17 teams, while the side spent a lengthy period together at the National Football Academy in Ba. The squad primarily consists of players based in the Fijian national league, while a handful ply their trade in New Zealand.