A New Zealand women’s side have never played American Samoa and there has been just three meetings between the two countries at men’s age-group levels.
On top of that, despite the collective experience of the New Zealand squad at World Cup level – 16 players have played in at least one age-group World Cup – only three players have ever played a qualification tournament due to the 2008 U-17 and U-20 squads qualifying automatically for their respective World Cups in New Zealand and Chile.
“Our last qualification game for the senior women, against Papua New Guinea, was to make the Olympics, while in 2007 World Cup qualification we did play Tonga, whose U-20s are here in Auckland, but didn’t face the Cook Islands or American Samoa,” says Junior Football Ferns coach Tony Readings.
“In fact, it’s probably a long time since any New Zealand team has played American Samoa.”
One players who has experienced a World Cup qualification campaign, captain Anna Green, says the squad know the right to represent Oceania at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Germany later this year must be earned.
“Our only target right now is winning this tournament and qualifying for Germany. We can’t take anything for granted with regard to that. We’ve got a tough week ahead of us and we’ve just got to get the job done,” Green said.
“We’re working on setting our own standards and while we have been using what we know about teams from Oceania in general, we are preparing as if we were playing World Cup opposition.”
Green is a certainty to fill the role of left back, leaving three other players capped at senior level to fight over the right fullback position.
Fleet footed Hannah Wall, who normally operates with width in midfield, has been tried there during training this week, but she faces stiff competition from the likes of Liz Milne and Caitlin Campbell.
Meanwhile, reserve goalkeeper Megan Shea has been forced out of the qualifiers with a back injury giving young Forrest Hill Milford custodian Erin Nayler an opportunity to challenge Victoria Esson for the number one spot.
New Zealand’s tournament opener against American Samoa kicks off at North Harbour Stadium’s artificial pitch at 1.30pm with Tonga facing the Cook Islands at 4pm.
New Zealand: 1-Victoria ESSON (GK), 2-Caitlin CAMPBELL, 3-Anna GREEN (Captain), 4-Chelsey WOOD, 5-Briony FISHER, 6-Bridgette ARMSTRONG, 7-Elise MAMANU-GRAY, 8-Sarah MCLAUGHLIN, 9-Hannah WALL, 10-Annalie LONGO, 11-Rosie WHITE, 12-Claudia CRASBORN, 13-Nadia PEARL, 14-Elizabeth MILNE, 15-Emily COOPER, 16-Hannah WILKINSON, 17-Teri Amber CARLSON, 18-Lauren MATHIS, 19-Lauren MURRAY, 20-Erin NAYLER (GK).
Coach: Tony READINGS
American Samoa: 1-Filiga IOAPO (GK), 2-Beulah ONEY, 3-Marissa VAGAIA, 4-Fuataina SIATU’U, 5-Horonaima TULAFONO, 6-Fiso LETOI, 7-Angela SA’O, 8-Faith EMBOY, 9-Meleane IOAPO, 10-Makerita LUANI, 11-Trixie MAVAEGA, 12-Tuiemanu RIPLEY, 13-Fara MATAITULI, 14-Malia SEFO, 15-Moaga SIAULAIGA, 17-Sancia SOPOAGA, 20-Fiapa’ipa’i SIATU’U (GK).
Coach: Ruben LUVU.
OFC U-20 Women’s Championship
Match day One
North Harbour Stadium (Domain 3)
Thursday, January 21
– 1:30pm: New Zealand v American Samoa
– 4pm: Tonga v Cook Islands
Story and photo courtesy NZFC.