Big prize dangles in Olympic play-off

Papua New Guinea have consistently proven themselves to be the Football Ferns main rival in Oceania, and won their way through to Stage 2 by virtue of their victory during last year’s XV Pacific Games on home soil.
As the region’s top-ranked nation, New Zealand were seeded directly into the play-off, and they will be confident that their recent performances on the international stage will provide the experience they need to overcome Papua New Guinea’s challenge.
The sides have met twice before at this stage, with New Zealand triumphant on both occasions although with vastly contrasting wins. Eight years ago it was just a 2-0 victory in Port Moresby that saw the Football Ferns through, while in 2012 they cruised to a 15-0 aggregate victory in the play-off.
Their most recent meeting was during the 2014 OFC Women’s Nations Cup when Papua New Guinea, led by former coach Gary Phillips, locked the Kiwis out until deep into the second half, before the visitors eventually prevailed 3-0.
For the Football Ferns a lot rides on making it through to Rio 2016 and with that in mind coach Tony Readings brought his squad into camp for a week before making their way to Lae to adjust to the environment.
Readings says the camp was an excellent opportunity for the squad to work on some fine-tuning ahead of today’s opener as the world’s 16th-ranked team strive to keep their upward momentum of recent years going.
“It was a really good opportunity to spend a bit more quality time with the team,” Readings says.
“We weren’t having to contend with recovery from flights and things like that. We’ve been able to have six training sessions and two training matches which has been great.”
The side arrived in Papua New Guinea with one day to get accustomed to the warm conditions and the playing field.
“We’ve got one training session on the pitch we’ll be playing on and we’ll keep that sharp and light to make sure we’re all fresh ahead of the game. We’ve done all the tactical work we need to do it’s just making sure now everyone’s fresh and ready to go.
“We all know the result we want every time we go on the pitch. Our emphasis is always to try and win every single game.”
For Papua New Guinea the preparations for this play-off have improved since those of 2012 but they haven’t been without incident.
After successfully leading the side to their fourth consecutive Pacific Games gold medal, coach Gary Phillips left his role which was only recently filled by assistant coach Rachel Wadunah.
Wadunah says they have tried to prepare for this play-off as best they can and believes the input of national U-20 coach and technical advisor Lisa Cole has been beneficial.
“We’ve been working with the girls and have had a couple of camps since the conclusion of the Pacific Games and now.
“The girls have been determined and hard working in all our trainings and are really looking forward to this encounter.”
Wadunah says that although in their previous meetings with the Football Ferns they’ve had some varying results, she doesn’t believe much can be read into then and now.
“I don’t want to compare with the last play-off because they are two different things. It was a different coach then and we know anything can happen in football.
“We do have 15 players returning from the Pacific Games squad which is good. We are used to the heat which could also be to our advantage but we will not be relying on that. We’ve prepared well and will go out there to compete to the best of our ability.”
Additional Information:
Papua New Guinea vs. New Zealand
PNGFA Academy
Lae, Papua New Guinea
Saturday 23 January 2016
Kick-off: 2pm (local)
PNGvNZL Rio2016
Referee: Ravitesh BEHARI (FIJ)
Assistant Referee 1: Ravinesh KUMAR (FIJ)
Assistant Referee 2: Ujwaal MUDLIAR (FIJ)
Fourth Official: Salesh CHAND (FIJ)
Papua New Guinea
Vital Statistics:
In their last meeting during the 2014 OFC Women’s Nations Cup, Papua New Guinea held New Zealand scoreless for just under an hour, before succumbing 3-0.
The Players: Captain Deslyn Siniu is Papua New Guinea’s most experienced member and her command of her back-line will be key to how well her side hold out New Zealand’s prolific attack. Marie Kaipu, Georgina Kaikas and Meagan Gunemba are three youngsters that have proven quite adept at finding the back of the net, which will be handy should they manage to break down the Football Ferns backline.
Papua New Guinea: 1. Fidelma WATPORE (GK), 2. Aida GEROTA, 3. Jenisa ULENGIT, 4. Olitha UPAUPA, 5. Carolyn OBI, 6. Yvonne GABONG, 7. Jacobeth BANI, 9. Marie KAIPU, 10. Sandra BIRUM, 11. Georgina KAIKAS, 12. Meagan GUNEMBA, 13. Ramona PADIO, 14. Kesai KOTOME, 15. Gloria LAELI, 16. Waling GUBAG, 17. Grace STEVENS, 19. Joelyn AIMI, 20. Lace KUNEI (GK), 21. Hega GERALD, 22. Deslyn SINUI (C)
Coach: Rachel WADUNAH (PNG)
New Zealand
Vital Statistics:
The OFC Women’s Olympic Qualifier in 2012 was a whitewash for the Football Ferns who qualified for London 2012 with a 15-0 aggregate, winning 8-0 and 7-0 in New Zealand and Papua New Guinea respectively.
The Players: It was defender Rebekah Stott who ended the deadlock in these two sides’ previous meeting in Kokopo, Papua New Guinea proving the Football Ferns can be deadly from any area of the park. Ria Percival and Ali Riley’s ability to move up and down the wings is impressive and will be hard to shut out of the match.
New Zealand: 1. Erin NAYLER (GK), 2. Ria PERCIVAL, 3. Kate LOYE, 4. Katie DUNCAN, 5. Abby ERCEG (C), Rebekah STOTT, 7. Ali RILEY, 8. Jasmine PEREIRA, 9. Amber HEARN, 10. Sarah GREGORIUS, 11. Kirsty YALLOP, 12. Betsy HASSETT, 13. Rosie WHITE, 14. Katie BOWEN, 15. Grace JALE, 16. Annalie LONGO, 17. Aimee PHILLIPS, 18. Catherine BOTT, 21. Rebecca ROLLS (GK), 23. Cushla LICHTWARK (GK)
Coach: Tony READINGS (ENG)

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