Hero Intercontinental Cup 2023, know your opponents: Vanuatu national football team
The side from the Oceania region will take on Lebanon in the Hero Intercontinental Cup opener on Friday followed by a clash against hosts India three days later. Vanuatu will square off against Mongolia in their final group stage clash, set to take place on June 15th.
The Vanuatu national football team is the second lowest FIFA-ranked nation in the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2023, which also comprises India, Lebanon and Mongolia. They will be the second nation from the Oceania region to participate in the Hero Intercontinental Cup after New Zealand, who played in the 2018 edition.
The side from the Oceania region will take on Lebanon in the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2023 opener on Friday followed by a clash against hosts India three days later. Vanuatu will square off against Mongolia in their final group stage clash, set to take place on June 15th.
With that, let’s take a closer look at their national team.
Part of the Oceania region, the island nation has a population of just over three lakhs. However, football remains the most popular sport in the country.
They were previously known as the New Hebrides football team until 1980 before the island nation attained its independence and was officially renamed the Republic of Vanuatu.
Vanuatu has been regularly participating in the OFC Nations Cup, the biggest tournament held among nations from the OFC region. They have featured eight times in the competition, finishing fourth on four occasions. Led by head coach Etienne Mermer, the squad also consists of few players who are playing for clubs outside Vanuatu.
Placed at the 164 spot in the FIFA rankings, the Vanuatu national team has not been in the best of form in recent years. Mermer’s side have played only four international friendlies since 2022, suffering three defeats and winning just a solitary game.
They travelled to Qatar last year in June for the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers, but a Covid-19 outbreak forced the side to withdraw from the event.
Two of the four friendlies took place earlier in March where the side recorded a 2-1 away win against Fiji followed by a 0-2 defeat to the Solomon Islands.
Head to Head
Vanuatu and India are set to face each other for the first time at the Hero Intercontinental Cup.
Captain of the side, Brian Kaltak is the one of the first names on the teamsheet for the national side. Having begun his football career with semi-professional clubs at the beginning of his career, Kaltak now plies his trade for A-League side Central Coast Mariners. The centre-back capped off an incredible debut season in Australia by recently winning the A-League Championship.
Capable of playing anywhere across the front three, Saniel remains one of the key attacking threats for Vanuatu national side. The 26-year-old is one of the few players from the national side that are currently part of clubs outside Vanuatu and plays for Fijian club Suva FC. Saniel was on the scoresheet in the team's recent 2-4 defeat against Auckland City FC in the Oceania Champions League final, where they narrowly missed out on a place in the FIFA Club World Cup.
Alongside Saniel, Solomon is also part of Suva FC and has been leading the attack for the national side in recent times. The 24-year-old has represented the national team at the youth level and has netted seven goals in 15 appearances for the senior national team. Solomon may not be among the tallest members in his team, but boasts a physical presence and has bags of pace.
Fixture: Vanuatu vs India
Date: 12 June
Time: 7.30 PM
Venue: Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar
Telecast: Star Sports 2, Disney + Hotstar, JioTv