The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) U-12 Festival of Football came to a thrilling conclusion in Port Moresby last week with Vanuatu taking the honours and a place at the Danone Nations Cup 2007 in France.
Vanuatu secured the title and qualification for the Danone Nations Cup with one match to spare after beating PNG’s Southern Region 1-0 in their sixth round clash at the Port Moresby Rugby League Stadium.
The Vanuatu team – comprising students from the St. Joseph School that won the Vanuakids U-12 Schools competition last year – was led ably by school teacher Haoul Raoul and Philemon John.
Closest rivals New Zealand finished the tournament on a high defeating PNG Kokopo Schools (2-0) and Solomon Islands (1-0) but the two victories were not enough to overhaul Vanuatu. The Kiwis conceded only one goal in the whole tournament – against Vanuatu – and it proved costly enough to deny them top spot.
The most frustrating story of the tournament will be that of New Caledonia who finished the competition in third place unbeaten in seven match run that comprised two wins and five draws. New Caledonia won plaudits on and off the pitch not only for their exciting brand of football but their willingness to embrace the culture and spirit of the OFC U-12 Festival of Football.
Solomon Islands finished fourth tied on points and goal difference with New Caledonia finishing higher based on their penalty shoot-out victory on Match Day Two. Solomon Islands will be remembered for their colourful cultural performances at Saint Theresa School on the Cultural Day and their wonderful repeat performance at the Opening Ceremony.
Papua New Guinea’s four teams finished in the bottom four with Kokopo Schools fifth thanks to scoring more goals than Southern Region (sixth) and possessing a better goal difference than Goroka. PNG Bugandi finished in eighth place winless and without scoring a goal but proving one of the most popular teams off the pitch with their friendly demeanour and commitment to fairplay and the cultural element of the tournament.