Vanuatu end memorable year on a high

2017 was a memorable year for football in Vanuatu.

The Pacific archipelago competed at its first FIFA tournament, bowing out at the group stage of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017, before ending the year on a high by taking gold in both the men’s and women’s editions of the Pacific Mini Games.

In December’s FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, Vanuatu – with a population of 250,000 – jumped an impressive 28 places and now occupy 157th on the global ladder, sitting above much larger Oceania nations such as Papua New Guinea (160th) and Fiji (168th). takes a closer look at the small South Pacific Island nation making big strides.

Golden end to celebrated 2017
Vanuatu’s recent Ranking rise can be attributed to positive results picked up against fellow Oceania sides in December. After forcing European nation Estonia to work hard for their 1-0 victory in an intriguing November friendly in Port Vila, Etienne Mermer’s men finished 2017 strongly by picking up three wins and a draw on the way to Pacific Mini Games gold on home soil.

Vanuatu’s December results
Vanuatu 2-1 New Caledonia
Vanuatu 5-0 Tonga
Vanuatu 1-1 Fiji
Vanuatu 3-2 Solomon Islands

In the final match against Melanesian rivals Solomon Islands, it seemed fitting that Bong Kalo netted the winning goal. The skipper at Korea Republic 2017 and an integral part of the senior set-up, Kalo – along with the likes of Ronaldo Wilkins and Azariah Soromon – provides a direct link to the side that made history for the South Pacific nation by competing at their first FIFA tournament.

Kalo, the country’s star performer at Korea 2017, found the net against Mexico before bagging a brace against Germany to cap an unforgettable World Cup for him and his team-mates. After the tournament, he made the near-10,000-mile journey from Vanuatu to Switzerland, where the 20-year-old currently plys his trade for FC Ascona and, in doing so, is the only member of the country’s current senior set-up to be playing his club football in Europe.

Vanuatu at Korea Republic 2017

Vanuatu 2-3 Mexico
Venezuela 7-0 Vanuatu
Germany 3-2 Vanuatu

“We are very proud of ourselves and we’re proud of our performances,” Kalo told after Vanuatu bowed out of the U-20 World Cup with their heads held high. “I think our family back home are having a party.”

While the population of Vanuatu basked in their valiant showing at Korea Republic 2017, football fans in the archipelago can also toast to the notable end of 2017, which saw the senior team take a dramatic ascent up the FIFA Ranking. Can Kalo and the small South Pacific Island nation continue making big strides in 2018?


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