Alopua Petoa of Tuvalu will be playing in a World Cup this year

Tuvalu’s best footballer will lead his team to a World Cup this year.

Striker Alopua Petoa, the country’s top scorer, will lead the island nation to the CONIFA World Cup in London, England. The World Cup is for teams who are not in FIFA and is the biggest non-official football tournament in the world.

Tuvalu are travelling to London after Kiribati were forced to pull out of the tournament – and now Petoa has the chance to shine on the world stage.

Born in Nauru but nationalised as a Tuvalu citizen, Petoa was the star of the Pacific Mini Games for Tuvalu when they stunned New Caledonia with a 2-1 win. Petoa scored one of the goals and followed it up with a second of the tournament in a 4-3 win over Tonga.

The striker has always had an eye for goal. He scored a memorable hat trick against American Samoa on his Pacific Mini Games debut in 2011 and has been leading Tuvalu ever since.

He has won several titles in his home country but his career has also taken him on trials to the Netherlands and to New Zealand, where he played for Waitakere City.

Petoa will now travel to London with the Tuvalu squad for a chance to compete. They will play European champions Padania, African side Matabeleland and Szekely Land in the group stage.

‘We are delighted to be given this late call-up for CONIFA’s biggest ever tournament,’ said Tuvalu Islands Football Association (TIFA) President Soseala Tinilau. ‘Obviously our selection is tinged with saddest that our dear neighbours Kiribati are unable to compete, but we look forward to doing the region proud in London.’

Despite heavy defeats to Vanuatu and Fiji, the nation beat two FIFA members and could be challengers for the CONIFA World Cup – and it could lead to the recognition needed to become a full member of Oceania and FIFA.

However, for that to happen Tuvalu would need an international football ground, training pitches and hotels. Until then, the CONIFA World Cup could be Petoa’s only chance to compete on the world stage for his country.

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