For the hosts, the tournament gets underway with a bang as they take on defending champions New Zealand in the opening match.
The 2014 edition saw Tonga record their first goal against their Kiwi opponents at this level, a development the team is keen to build on this time around. With the added pressure of playing in front of the home crowd it’s not going to be easy, but coach Penateti Feke has named a side rife with experience – many of whom she’s played alongside in the senior women’s side herself in recent times.
Leading by example is captain Vea Funaki while the likes of Ofaloto Laakulu and Heilala Moala will also be lending experience. Those key defenders will be important given Feke is taking a cautious, defence-heavy approach to the match.
New Zealand have arrived in Nuku’alofa with a team that is equally experienced as their Tongan opponents. Jasmine Pereira and Daisy Cleverley both have senior caps, while a large section of the squad have experience of either a FIFA U-17 or U-20 World Cup.
As defending champions New Zealand come into the competition as heavy favourites to successfully defend their title. Adding weight is the fact that no nation other than Australia has ever beaten the Kiwis – who have been on an unbeaten run since 2002.
Leon Birnie’s side will want to make a good, strong start to the competition in an effort to get an early edge. However that doesn’t mean they’ll be taking any of their opponents lightly. Tonga have shown in the past that beating New Zealand is one of their key objectives and this encounter will be no different.
In the second Match Day 1 encounter Vanuatu will take on New Caledonia in what will mark the first occasion these two sides will meet at this level.
New Caledonia perhaps have a slight edge after their silver-medal securing performance at the XV Pacific Games in Port Moresby in July with five members of the that squad present in Tonga.
However they have been inactive at this level of regional competition since 2012, unlike their opponents who took part in the 2014 edition in New Zealand. Vanuatu coach Joel Rarua is also the Vanuatu Football Federation women’s football development officer and he’s been working hard at developing the game. He’s been able to include several 2014 squad members while also bringing in some new talents identified during the recent VFF Women’s Open League.
For New Caledonia, who have been left without some of the key players coach Kamali Fitialeata had been counting on, the approach to the game is one of caution. With little knowledge of their opponent, it would be a wise way to come into the opening match especially as early performances can have a strong impact on the course of the tournament.
Samoa sit out Match Day 1 with a bye.
Tonga vs New Zealand
Loto-Tonga Soka Centre
Thursday 1 October, 2015
Referee: George TIME (SOL)
Assistant Referee 1: Nagarita JIMMY (SOL)
Assistant Referee 2: Bernard MUTUKERA (SOL)
Fourth Official: Finau VULIVULI (FIJ)
The players: Vea Funaki is a sensible leader who runs her defence well. Ofaloto Laakulu is an all or nothing player who puts everything into defending her goal, while also enjoying the opportunity to push forward when it’s offered.
The vital statistics: In four matches against New Zealand at this level Tonga have conceded 36 goals. However they have also shown progress with an 11-0 deficit in 2010 reduced to just 3-1 in 2014.
Coach quote: “It is going to be a very tough game for us, we will definitely be defending deep against New Zealand. Defending deep and trying to get them on the counter is the idea. We are hoping to get a big crowd here cheering for us. The girls will be needing huge support from the crowd since they are playing against the defending champions.”
Squad list: Heleni TAHITUA (GK), 2. Ofaloto LAAKULU, 3. Heilala MOALA, 4. Katalina 8. Halaunga TAHOLO, 9. Liliani KAITAPU, 10. Malia TONGIA, 11. Alexandra FIFITA, 12. Siunipa TALASINGA, 13. Manu LATU, 14. Meleseini TUFUI, 15. Taylor PARKER, 16. Sosefina HAVEA, , 21. Mele AKOLO (GK), 22. Fipe KAUVVAKA (GK)
Coach: Penateti FEKE (TGA)
The players: Having claimed the Golden Boot at this tournament in 2014, striker Emma Rolston will be one to watch. A cool head in the centre of the New Zealand side, Daisy Cleverley is expected to play a significant role.
The vital statistics: New Zealand have never lost against a Tonga U-20 women’s side, in fact, their last loss in the competition was at the hands of Australia back in 2002.
Coach Quote: “We are expecting a good game. It is the first game of the series for the girls so they are pretty excited. Defensively Tonga did really well in this tournament last year and made it challenging for New Zealand in our game against them, and we don’t expect anything different tomorrow.”
Squad list: 1. Tessa NICOL (GK), 2. Sarah MORTON, 3. Geneva GROSS, 4. Elizabeth ANTON, 5. Eileish KAYES, 7. Isabella COOMBES, 8. Jasmine PEREIRA, 10. Daisy CLEVERLEY, 11. Emma ROLSTON, 12. Sophie STEWART-HOBBS, 13. Paige SATCHELL, 14. Isabella RICHARDS, 15. Michaela ROBERTSON, 16. Jade PARRIS, 15. Samantha MURRELL, 18. Emma MAIN, 19. Amber PHILLIPS, 20. Grace JALE, 21. Una FOYLE (GK)
Coach: Leon BIRNIE (NZL)
Vanuatu vs. New Caledonia
Thursday 1 October, 2015
Referee: Salesh CHAND (FIJ)
Assistant Referee 1: Wanting YAGUM (PNG)
Assistant Referee 2: Avinesh NARAYAN (FIJ)
Fourth Official: Amos ANIO (PNG)
The players: Brenda Anis and Julie-Rose Nasse are among the nine players who are returning from the 2014 edition of this event.
The vital statistics: Vanuatu have an average age of 17 for this comepetition.
Coach Quote: “Tomorrow is going to be a good challenge for me and my team playing against New Caledonia. The players are prepared and looking forward to the game to put on the best performance. I believe they are a good team, they participated in the Pacific Games so they have good experience from that. We’ll try our best to finish the game with a good result.”
Squad list: 1. Melody TATE (GK), 2. Daina KALOPONG, 3. Monica MELTEVIEL, 4. Jasmina TAKARO, 5. Louisa KALPRAM, 6. Nadine KILETEIR, 7. Brenda ANIS, 8. Emilia TARAVAKI, 9. Priscilla CHARLEY, 10. Paulieana MANWO, 12. Dilisa YEOYER, 13. Cllemontine SENIS, 14. Keren COULON, 15. Rina BATICK, 16. Eva BOE, 17. Julie-Rose NASSE, 18. Johnita WILLIE, 19. Delphine KALMET, 20. Noela BAKOKOTO (GK), 21. Elmah AIJIBI
Coach: Joel RARUA (VAN)
The players: Sidney Gatha, Noe Valefakaaga, Isabelle Hace, Lyndsay Nyipie and Josiane Ayawa were all members of the silver medal winning XV Pacific Games squad.
The vital statistics: This is New Caledonia’s third appearance at this competition and the first time they will take on Vanuatu.
Coach Quote: “Unfortunately due to exams back home we couldn’t bring all the players that we wanted to but this will be a good opportunity for some of the younger members of the squad. We believe Vanuatu will be a strong side, although we don’t know too much about them.”
Squad list: 1. Emma IE (GK), 2. Christy ARU, 3. Noe VALEFAKAAGA, 4. Marie-Luce TCHACKO, 5. Coralie BRANDAO, 6. Dominique NEXON, 7. Yali HACE, 8. Isabelle HACE, 9. Lyndsay NYIPIE, 10. Josiane AYAWA, 1111. Marlory ONIARY, 12. Julie DJAOUA, 13. Sidney GATHA, 14. Cythia POAPEDA, 15. Christiane WHAAP, 16. Dolores KECINE, 17. Noemie TROJANIE (GK)
Coach: Kamali FITIALEATA (NCL)