Oceania Football Confederation > News > 2015 OFC U-17 Championship > New Zealand and Tahiti to meet in Final

New Zealand and Tahiti to meet in Final

New Zealand and Vanuatu were the two first teams to battle for a spot in the final. Vanuatu went into their semi-final having only conceded three goals so far in the competition; however they faced New Zealand who had yet to lose a semi-final since Australia left the Oceania Football Confederation in 2007.
History looked like it would repeat, as New Zealand opened the scoring in just the third minute, Connor Probert’s cross finding James McGarry at the far post.
Vanuatu kept their heads high despite conceding so early and had a number of close chances on goal but Frederick Massing’s shot went straight to New Zealand goal keeper Michael Woud and Sylvain Worworbu’s shot deflected off the crossbar.
Vanuatu appeared to miss reliable defender Jeffrey Tasso, suspended following his red card against Tahiti, highlighted in the 20th minute with New Zealand’s second goal.
Sam Wilson’s free kick found Logan Rogerson, who got a shot off but the ball was deftly saved by Vanuatu goal keeper Willie Dick. The resulting corner was taken by Sarpeet Singh, finding Rogerson at the near post who headed home the ball to double the lead for the Kiwis to 2-0.
There were nerves in the New Zealand camp when Woud was shown a yellow card in just the 24th minute of the game, but the feisty goal keeper managed to keep his cool for the remainder of the game.
It was end to end play for the final 20 minutes of the first half of the match. The two goal keepers were called on to make adept saves, while their striker teammates could not find their target.
Vanuatu had the first say in the second half with a shot on goal by Abednigo Sau in the 47th minute, however it was off target. New Zealand kept pushing and their efforts paid off when Singh’s cross again found Rogerson in the goal box and he scored his brace with a header to make it 3-0.
The goal fired up the ni-Vanuatu players who had three good chances on goal that didn’t quite come to fruition, with a free kick by Ronaldo Wilkins that was off target, a cross into the goal box by Worworbu that was cleared and a shot by Sau that was saved by Woud.
But the pressure paid off and Vanuatu finally scored in the 67th minute through a deflection off New Zealand defender Luke Johnson.
Despite two further chances by Massing the game swung unquestionably in New Zealand’s favour when Tahitian referee Kader Zitouni awarded a penalty in the 82nd minute. It was an opportunity Probert didn’t miss, and he scored the fourth goal for the Young All Whites. Wilson scored the fifth and final goal for New Zealand in the third minute of added time.
Vanuatu had the last opportunity in the game with a free kick, but the New Zealand defence easily cleared the ball and claimed the 5-1 win.
New Zealand coach Jose Figueira was pleased with the performance of his players, especially in testing conditions.
“I am so proud of the performances – with the travel, the games and the long days, I am very proud of the level of performance of the players today.
“It was a fantastic reaction by the players after conceding the goal, I am very happy,” he said.
Despite the result, Vanuatu assistant coach John Philemon is happy with the attitude of the players.
“The players didn’t respect the plan we put in place for the game against New Zealand,” he said, however overall “I am happy about the performance of the players.”
The francophone rivalry between Tahiti and New Caledonia meant the second semi-final was an intense game between two teams who knew each other very well.
Tahiti went into the semi-final not only undefeated, but also with a clean sheet having not conceded any goals so far in the competition. New Caledonia came into the game with some confidence, having almost defeated New Zealand earlier in the week in the group stages of the competition, narrowly losing 5-4.
The game started in Tahiti’s favour with their top goal scorer Michel Maihi close to opening the scoring for the Group B winners in just the fourth minute of play, but his shot was caught by New Caledonian goal keeper Patrick Nyikeine.
Despite this early fright, New Caledonia reacted quickly with Henri Boucheron finding Joseph Hnagone in the box but his shot was off target. Hnagone then found Jean-Marc Kaudre in the box, but his shot too was off target. Boucheron again looked dangerous before Tahiti’s Joachim Tenuanua could clear the ball.
New Caledonia kept pushing and their efforts were rewarded in the 18th minute by Hnagone, who received the ball from Joris Kenon and opened the scoring with a shot from close range inside the box.
New Caledonia kept up the pressure, with Marino Akapo stopped twice by Tahiti’s central defenders Tenuanua and Vaianui Drollet.
The water break at 30 minutes worked in the favour of the Tahitians, who came back out attacking. Ariinui Tiatoa’s free kick found Maihi alone at the far post who scored with a header in the 38th minute to draw the scores level, which is how the game remained going into the half time break.
Five minutes into the second half Heirauarii Salem swooped on a defensive error by New Caledonian Renzo Wejieme, who mistimed his kick. Salem made the most of the opportunity and scored to give Tahiti the lead.
However the lead was short-lived as just six minutes later Kenon equalised for New Caledonia with a superb direct free kick.
Kenon and teammate Nelson Kai continued to create opportunities up the right hand side for New Caledonia however they couldn’t secure the winning goal.
In a game which looked like it would struggle to find a winner, it was finally Tahiti who scored the winning goal thanks to Salem in the 81st minute assisted by the ever-present Maihi.
Tahitian coach Ludovic Graugnard was relieved with the result.
“It was a very intense game. We did plan the match would be really complicated against New Caledonia. We totally missed our first half, mostly the first 30 minutes.
“The second half was more complicated and both teams have difficulties physically but we are relieved by this result and we will enjoy it tonight,” he said.
New Caledonia coach Kamali Fitialeata knows small details can make a big difference, as they did today.
“This is football. Football relies on details and we did make a few mistakes today. We made two mistakes in defence which cost us two goals.”
However, Fitialeata was complimentary of his opposition.
“I congratulate Tahiti who did play well and deserved their qualification.”
New Zealand will take on Tahiti in the final on Monday 26 January kicking off at 3.30pm while Vanuatu and New Caledonia will battle for the third spot at 1pm at Pago Park Soccer Stadium.
The winner of the tournament qualifies for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile in October.

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