Fiji ready for Tonga |

The Digicel Fiji Football Women’s National team is raring to take on neighbours Tonga today at Churchill Park in the lead-up to the OFC Women’s Nation’s Cup that kicks off in a week.

The women’s team last played in Sydney in March against the Philippines after taking a break during the pandemic for two years when international travel and competitions were on hold.

The match kicks off at 5pm after Women’s National Coach Lisa Cole names her final squad of 26.

Cole who joined in January is confident that her team is ready for the competition and looks forward to testing the girls before the official tournament begins on the 13th of July.

“We feel we are prepared and in a really good place but the only way we know where we are at is when we play against another team. This first match against Tonga is an opportunity to see where we are at this point and where we can improve prior to the tournament,” said Cole.

“The preparation has been good, especially with their improvement. It’s been impressed with the improvements from January until now. The players are paying attention to what’s important such as nutrition, fitness and sleeping habits. They’ve really bought into everything we’ve asked them to do. It’s been really impressive.

Cole wants to get a full game for the team ahead of the official tournament.

“The biggest thing is to get 90 minutes of fitness. We haven’t played a 90-minute game against outside competition since March. At that time we didn’t have a good team or the starting team together yet.

One of our biggest aim is to get a full game in and look at our substitution pattern. Look at how we do in transition from attack to defence. To fine-tune things. We feel like we are in a good place but when we play somebody else, they present different problems so when we are presented with problems we can see how we are to solve them and on the field.

Captain Sofi Diyalowai said it was important for the team to put its “best foot forward and give their all”.

“These matches are important for us as we get to test ourselves before the OFC Women’s Nations cup kicks off in a week. The girls are dedicated and want to win the nations cup at any cost. We have been working very hard and we are all ready for this challenge.”

The 28-year-old, who is a regular starter for Digicel Labasa Women’s team said she “wants to ensure that the team improves and works on errors to strengthen itself”.

“What we want to do is to keep growing and improving so that we are a formidable team in Oceania.”

The team is expected to include regulars national reps and some new names including defender Sindhika Shayal, a school teacher in Labasa who makes her debut at the OFC Women’s Nations Cup for the Fiji national team.

“I’ve been trying to be part of the national team for a long time. I’ve been playing for 13 years. I played in Nadroga, Nadi and Labasa and it’s been a dream of mine to wear the national jersey.”

“We are all here to win and that’s our main goal. We want to give our best and bring the nations cup home.”

“I’m in this field to inspire girls and women to encourage them to take the challenge to take up football and sports in general.

“I love being a defender. It’s like being in a war. I’m putting my life on the line and I’m part of the line of defence to make sure our opponents don’t go past me.”

Coach Cole is impressed with the preparation including talent and the support from both players and staff.

“Overall the preparation has been great. The players have been tremendous and the staff have worked hard.

Admission is free.

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