Oceania is a hotbed of football talent.
From professional side Wellington Phoenix’s academy to the amateur pitches of Samoa, the continent could be one of the most overlooked when it comes to international scouting.
But recent events such as the u20 World Cup and the growing number of players securing trials and contracts abroad show Oceania has a lot to offer clubs around the world.
To celebrate the depth of talent in Oceania we have gathered together 23 of the best young players on the continent. We’ll be keeping track of these players to see exactly where their immense talent takes them with monthly updates.
23. Paulo Scanlan
Paulo Scanlan has long been touted as a star of Samoan football, having won several schoolboy awards.
Formerly of Kiwi FC, he now plays for Vaipuna and has broken in to the national side despite being just 20.
The midfielder has played three Oceania Champions League games, scoring once, and made headlines with a hat trick for Samoa u17s in a 3-2 victory over Tonga in the OFC u17 Championship at the age of just 15.
22. Moana Pito
At just 17 years of age goalkeeper Moana Pito is already being touted as the successor to long-serving Tahiti number 1 Michael Roche for both country and club side Tefana.
Having appeared in u17 World Cup qualification at the age of just 15, Pito is no stranger to big games.
Tahiti u17 coach Emmanuel Liparo “He has the mind that allows him to be a high-level goalkeeper.” – and even added that his career could see him perform in the CFA level in the fourth tier of French football.
21. Michael Woud
Sunderland’s 17-year old goalkeeper Michael Woud is one of the few professionals to appear for New Zealand in the u20 World Cup in 2017.
Benefiting from top-level coaching, the commanding shot-stopper is comfortable dealing with crosses and is already following in the footsteps of England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the Sunderland youth teams.
20. Iosefo Verevou
Not many Fijian footballers can include a goal against Germany on their CV but Iosefo Verevou can.
His early career was a mix of incredible stats – the single goal in an 8-1 defeat to the World Champions in the 2015 u20 World Cup being the highlight.
He also made his semi-professional debut for Rewa at the age of just 14 – a record in Fiji.
The talented striker was briefly dropped from the national side for being overweight but has worked his way back in to star alongside his brother, Epeli Saukuru. If he fulfils his potential he could be Fiji’s main striker for many years.
19. Heirauarii Salem
Midfielder Heirauarii Salem is a strong, athletic player with an eye for goal – netting three in three for Tahiti’s u20s.
His potential has not gone unnoticed. In 2015 he spent time in the Canary Islands alongside roommate and fellow AS Pirae player Michel Maihi. The 12 day trial did not result in a contract, but the 19-year-old’s development is continuing quickly and he could be the next big player for the national side.
18. Mickael Ulile
At just 19 Mickael Ulile is the national keeper for New Caledonia and the number one for the country’s best team, Magenta.
The impressive position is down to superb performances when called upon last year in his international debut.
A fine shot-stopper, there are still things to be ironed out in Ulile’s game but with decades of football ahead of him, he looks to be the country’s number one for many years.
17. Atkin Kaua
At the age of 20 Kaua has plenty of talent. Excellent at creating chances, he has already thrived in New Zealand for Canterbury United.
However, work permit issues mean he has since returned to the Solomon Islands to continue his development – although he was thought in such high regard in New Zealand he was awarded the captains armband in his final match. He went on to score one and create two more goals.
His former coach Willy Gerdsen says of the hugely talented Kaua: “He’s good in tight spaces, has good passing range, he can read the game.”
16. Ronaldo Wilkins
Having spent time training with Wellington Phoenix in New Zealand, the wonderfully-named Ronaldo Wilkins already seems to be on the radar of bigger clubs.
The striker has an eye for a goal – as demonstrated by a fine finish in the opening game of the u20 World Cup in 2017.
Full of tricks and skills, Wilkins is a technically gifted player with a desire to make it in the game. You wouldn’t bet against him.
15. Shene Welepane
Magenta midfielder Shene Welepane is the latest player to earn senior international honours, making his debut in June 2017 for the New Caledonia side.
The 19-year-old midfielder has also starred in the OFC Champions League, scoring twice in five appearances.
One of those games, an incredible 2-2 draw to Team Wellington, saw Welepane stand out as a the man of the match.
NZFootball.co.nz‘s match report said: “Shene Welepane stepped up in the first leg with some excellent attacking football that really opened up the game and created chances for Magenta.”
14. Sam Brotherton
20-year-old Brotherton secured a dream move to Sunderland in January 2017, where he will develop in the u23 league.
The defender, who is already a full international, is a natural leader on the pitch and is comfortable on the ball – fitting all the criteria for modern defenders.
Brotherton is also an aerial threat and may find his opportunities growing after Sunderland’s relegation to the English Championship and documented money worries.
If he does get a chance he will already be able to call on Confederations Cup experience to be a success in England and follow in the footsteps of Winston Reid.
13. Phillip Mango
At just 21 Phillip Mango has helped to guide Solomon Islands to a World Cup 2018 playoff against New Zealand.
The goalkeeper is fond of athletic saves and excels in one-on-one situations and is an accomplished Futsal player, representing his nation in the recent World Cup.
Becoming a goalkeeper on difficult pitches in Oceania’s islands is a tough job – but Mango makes it look easy and will only get better.
12. Felix Komolong
At the age of just 20 imperious defender Komolong has already become the anchor at the back for the Papua New Guinea national team.
Bigger things could be on the way for Komolong – he has already been on trial at German giants Werder Bremen and a move to the country could be helped by his experience living there as a child.
He is one of the few PNG players to play in New Zealand, for Canterbury United, where coach Willy Gerdsen singled him out as a ‘rising star’. He says: “He’s an obvious talent, a class player.”
11. Myer Bevan
Bevan burst onto the world scene with a stunning goal against Honduras just seconds into the u20 World Cup group game against Honduras.
That eye for goal has also helped to secure his first professional contract at Vancouver Whitecaps 2.
Always confident in his own ability, Bevan has graduated from the highly-rated Nike Academy and has a range of skills including speed, composure and the ability to score from outside the area – as well as the odd free kick.
So impressive is the young striker, he was unfortunate to miss out on the All Whites Confederations Cup squad and is likely to be a mainstay for years to come.
10. Saula Waqa
Having scored four goals for Ba on the opening game of the Fiji league season, Waqa is beginning to fulfil the vast potential he has.
The tall striker is strong in the air, deceptively quick and can finish from inside and outside the box.
The 21-year-old has already scored twice for the national side, including an excellent header in the recent 2-2 draw with New Caledonia in the World Cup.
9. Logan Rogerson
At just 19 years of age Wellington Phoenix attacking midfielder Rogerson already has two full international caps.
He has also broken through for the Phoenix first team and will be hoping for more appearances this season.
Equally at home running at players or pulling the strings from the number 10 position, Rogerson is also confident further up the pitch as a second striker.
The talent is there for Rogerson, who has represented New Zealand at every age group, and a breakthrough season is on the horizon for the player who should fit coach Darije Kalezic’s system perfectly.
8. Jason Thomas
Former u20 Vanuatu captain Jason Thomas is the leader of the country’s incredible crop of young talent.
The commanding defender with an eye for goal as even played abroad after a short spell inthe Cambodian league.
A veteran of several OFC and World Cup under age tournaments, Thomas is unlikely to continue in the amateur game for much longer. The Erakor defender would be a bargain for any club looking for a talented young defender.
7. Dane Ingham
It’s been a meteoric rise for 18-year-old full back Dane Ingham. Having made his debut for Brisbane Roar in the A-League, he followed it up with an international debut for the All Whites.
He even played in the 2017 Confederations Cup. While he suffered a torrid time against Portugal – and Ronaldo – it will be an incredibly useful lesson for the talented defender.
The athletic defender is a modern full back with plenty of attacking instinct – even becoming the fourth youngest ever A-League scorer with a superb strike against Perth Glory.
As he learns the trade in defence, he could become one of the All White’s best players in the coming years.
6. Barthy Kerobin
At the tender ago of just 16 Papua New Guinea striker Barthy Kerobin has exploded onto the scene, scoring six goals in the first six games of the league season for the national side’s development team, Besta PNG United.
The striker also has four goals in four games in the u17 OFC tournament to finish top scorer.
Meanwhile, his coach Harrison Kamake said he has ‘everything in the bag to be a top attacking player’.
5. John Aeta
Aeta may only be 16 but the defender has already appeared in the Fiji full international squad in recent months.
And, if the words of his coach, Spaniard Felipe Vega-Arango, are anything to go by he could be the best young prospect in Oceania.
He said: “Aeta is extremely good, I like him a lot. From day one in training I can say this guy can play in the Spanish La Liga, he is really gifted and I told him be smart to use it.”
If that isn’t praise I don’t know what is.
4. Bong Kalo
Attacking midfielder Bong Kalo is the star of Vanuatu u20s. The county’s brightest prospect, he shot to world fame with three goals in the u20 World Cup in 2017.
Of those goals, two were scored in a narrow 3-2 defeat to Germany – and the second was a wonderful free kick.
He impressed with his leadership, cool finishing and even moments of breathtaking skill. A move to a bigger league is only a matter of time for one of the continent’s brightest stars.
3. Sarpreet Singh
New Wellington Phoenix manager Darije Kalezic likes to play the Dutch way. Technical, passing football is on the agenda and new signing Sarpreet Singh, at just 18, couldn’t fit the brief more.
The Phoenix Academy graduate has a superb range of passing and despite his slight frame is capable of dealing with the physical demands of the game.
As Chris Greenacre said when Singh was only 16: “He will only get better with experience and continuing to play alongside senior players.
“I think we really have a player on our hands in Sarpreet.”
2. David Browne
Browne is the first ever professional footballer from Papua New Guinea and could be the first to play in a top European league this season if he appears for Groningen.
Having made his debut for Auckland City at the age of 16, Browne has become the most important player in PNG football at the age of 21.
An attack-minded midfielder and capable on either wing, 2017/18 is a big year for Browne, who is picking up the technical aspect of the game quickly in the Netherlands.
1. Clayton Lewis
Clayton Lewis may have been the only amateur player on the pitch at the Confederations Cup against Mexico but for long periods he ran the show.
Composed on the ball, the midfielder set up Chris Wood’s goal in the 2-1 defeat and was the standout player against the pros of Mexico.
The Auckland City star is only 20 but dominates the midfield area. A move to an A-League club – or further afield – is surely only a matter of time for one of New Zealand’s best young stars.