'You're only as good as your last game' goes the saying but for New Caledonia coach Didier Chamberon, the bigger picture is arguably even more significant. Chamberon is looking for sustained progress from the Pacific islanders rather than a short-term fix and said: "For me, a long-term plan for New Caledonia was essential for me to work in this job.
"Immediate results are not possible because for football in New Caledonia the sport is still very much at a recreational level," Chamberon added. "I spoke with OFC Technical Director Jim Selby and he agreed that New Caledonia needed to have a long-term plan in place to create a programme that would last."
The performances of the country's club champions, AS Mont Dore's in the OFC O-League seem to lend weight to Chamberon's argument. They lost all their group matches by wide margins and the national association then surrendered its O-League qualifying slot after Tafea FC of Vanuatu won the Preliminary Tournament in May of this year.
Yet at national-team level, the outlook is brighter: since Chamberon took over the reins, New Caledonia's performances at international tournaments have improved measurably. At the OFC U-20 Championship, his pragmatic, disciplined and hard-working youngsters achieved a respectable placing of fourth. Indeed their FIFA U-20 World Cup qualification hopes were still very much alive going into the last few days prior to a narrow 1-0 loss to New Zealand.
The senior team have since underlined their improvement by reaching the semi-finals of the South Pacific Games in Samoa, where they face Solomon Islands on Wednesday. For Chamberon, the key to raising standards has been building a sense of the collective. "We have certain individuals who have good talent - Pierre Wajoka is a good player, for example, but without the team, without the squad, then moments of individual glory are not possible."
New Caledonia's preparations for the event in Samoa included a tour of Australia, where their friendly opponents Hyundai A-League side Central Coast Mariners. They suffered a 5-0 defeat but Chamberon's verdict was "this game was good for us" and his charges appear to have learned from the experience, going four games undefeated so far at the Games with three wins and a draw.
After beating Tuvalu (1-0), Tahiti (1-0) and Cook Islands (3-0), Wajoka's goal earned them a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Fiji on Monday. "We produced a good result against Fiji as they have good quality players that like to pass the ball so to draw was pleasing for us," said Chamberon. The squad, Chamberon added, have been drawn "closer together" by the death of the father of No9 Marius Mapou just days into the tournament.
This sense of unity will have to be strong against Solomon Islands in Wednesday's semi-final. Predicting a "difficult" test, striker Iamel Kabeu said: "We have a similar level of technique but we will have to show 100 per cent concentration to achieve a result." And can New Caledonia actually go all the way to the final? "I wish," added Kabeu. "To me, regardless, it is more important to play good football and make a good match with the Solomon Islands for not only ourselves, but Oceania."