Oceania Football Confederation > News > 2015 OFC U-20 Women's Championship > New Zealand celebrate title in style

New Zealand celebrate title in style

Having secured the tournament victory – and qualification to the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea – prior to kick off on Match Day 5, New Zealand had no pressure on them for their last game at the Loto-Tonga Soka Centre in Nuku’alofa.
Their opponents on the other hand had plenty to play for, with a guarantee of finishing second if they could keep the goal difference in the game to less than 18.
They made sure of that with a spirited defensive display which saw them hold the five-time champions to three first-half goals.
Despite appearing to struggle against a deep-set Samoa formation in the early exchanges, Leon Birnie’s side did well to remain patient and take their chances in the second half.
Replacement forward Emma Main subbed on at half time and made an emphatic statement by scoring four goals, while striker Emma Rolston took her overall tournament tally to 25 by scoring twice.
She was later awarded her second-consecutive OFC U-20 Women’s Championship Golden Boot.
Captain Jasmine Pereira, on her way to being named winner of the Golden Ball as the competition’s best player, scored in the 46th minute, while Isabella Coombes, Michaela Robertson and Daisy Cleverley also got their names on the scoresheet.
Birnie acknowledged the big defensive effort from Samoa, but said he was happy with the way his side improved in the second half.
“All credit to Samoa, especially in the first half, their coaching staff got their tactics spot on and the girls executed the plan,” he says.
“They made it really difficult for us and we struggled to break them down.
“At half time we spoke about some ideas and solutions on how to get through and I thought we were a little bit better in the second half.”
New Zealand now join the likes of Japan, France and Germany as teams who have already qualified for the World Cup, while for Samoa the second-place finish is their best result at an OFC U-20 Women’s Championship.
Coach Leti Tamasese was delighted with the performance at full time.
“I am very proud, words can’t explain it right now, I am very proud of the girls,” she says.
“Even though we lost it was a great game for us, we tried our best to finish second and are happy with our results at the tournament.”
Earlier in the day Tonga fell just short of avoiding a last-place finish, leaking a late goal to draw 2-2 with Vanuatu and seal their fate at the bottom of the table.
After losing to New Caledonia on Match Day 4 the host nation needed to secure their first victory of the tournament to avoid finishing last, and nearly did so after taking a 2-1 lead into the final four minutes of regulation time.
Despite the result coach Penateti Feke said she couldn’t doubt the effort her side had put in.
“I think the girls gave it all they had today, we got a draw instead of a win, but for me it’s better than a loss,” she says.
“After the game against New Zealand I thought we improved for the Samoa game, but we didn’t perform well against New Caledonia. Today we did well to finish the tournament with a draw. “
Earlier in the match Vanuatu had taken the lead on 23 minutes thanks to a thundering shot from Priscilla Charley, which flew into the net despite a touch from keeper Fipe Kauvaka.
With the game flowing from end-to-end Vanuatu wasted some golden opportunities to double their lead before the break, including a 40th minute penalty which was saved by the Tonga keeper.
At half time Tonga introduced Mele Akolo, who was their starting goalkeeper for the first four games of the tournament, into the match as a striker.
Together with Ofaloto Laakulu she sparked a period of dominance for her side, as they outmuscled Vanuatu through the middle of the park and threatened down the flanks with some pace and individual flair.
Both Akolo and midfielder Seini Lutu had good chances to score, before Laakulu finally put Tonga on the board in the 79th minute.
A scramble in the box saw the ball spill out a couple of times before Laakulu powered the ball into the net.
Seven minutes later the home crowd went into a frenzy when Akolo netted to give them a 2-1 lead, calmly tapping the ball into the corner of the goal after breaking free from her marker.
But they would enjoy being in front for only four minutes, conceding in the last minute of regulation time when Melteviel ran in behind the line and stroked the ball around Kauvaka.
Tonga did have a chance to win the match in added time, with Akolo getting through on goal only to be called back for offside, leaving them to settle for the 2-2 draw.
Missing out on victory cost Vanuatu a silver medal, but coach Joel Rarua was optimistic in his appraisal after the game, given his side had finished the 2014 OFC U-20 Women’s Championship in last place without scoring a single goal.
“It was one of our objectives to either win or draw this game,” he says.
“We tried our best and managed to lead in the first half, but in the second half Tonga were really physical and got back into the game.
“The players had injuries but we told them that we needed to do something, we needed to change the story of women’s football in Vanuatu.
“I am really proud of women’s football in my country at the moment, compared to last year’s competition when we were last this is very good.
“If we continue with this and get more kids participating in the game then our results will improve from today.”
Other award winners from the competition were Samoa keeper Katarina Ah Sui, who won the Golden Gloves, and Tonga who received the Fair Play Award.

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