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Solomon Islands line-up against New Zealand

Qualification history
The Solomon Islands have rich footballing traditions reflected in their FIFA World Cup™ history, which dates back to 1992. The Melanesians immediately showed their ability in that campaign by sensationally giving Australia a scare before falling to a late 2-1 defeat. The Solomons came of age in qualifiers for Germany 2006, drawing 2-2 away against Australia to edge ahead of New Zealand and into the Oceania final. Although the ensuing play-off against Australia ended in heavy defeat, over 20,000 crammed into the national stadium in Honiara with five figure crowds common for major internationals, and even club matches. Along with New Caledonia, New Zealand and Tahiti the Solomons featured among Oceania’s last-four for Brazil 2014, after a semi-final appearance on home soil at the 2012 OFC Nations Cup.

*The team
The Solomons have long been renowned for their flair and high-tempo ball-playing style, and they are highly regarded in both Beach Soccer and Futsal. Nicknamed the Bonitos, the Solomons also earned the moniker as the ‘Brazil of the Pacific’, with the team even donning yellow shirts and blue shirts. Honiara’s cloying humidity and the size of their Lawson Tama home ground – the largest stadium among Pacific Island nations – make the Solomons a formidable outfit on home turf. An overflowing production line of young prospects are pushing for a senior team berth alongside the likes of ageless forward Henry Fa’Arodo.

*The coach
Former national team representative Moses Toata was appointed coach in October 2015 for an 18-month stint, which included a semi-final berth at the 2016 OFC Nations Cup. However, Spaniard Felipe Vega-Arango assumed the reins in early 2017 midway through the Third Stage of OFC’s Russia 2018 qualifying. Vega-Arango also has a technical structure role and is involved with the national youth teams. He has previous experience coaching abroad having done so extensively with youth teams in USA. The son of a former Sporting Gijon president, Vega-Arango most recently coached Gijon Industrial in Spain’s third tier.

The stat
– Solomon Islands have featured in six previous World Cup qualifying campaigns, a figure bettered only by Fiji among Pacific Island nations.

*Former stars
Batram Suri, Jack Samani, Commins Menapi