Oceania Football Confederation > News > 2015 OFC U-17 Championship > New Zealand book their ticket to Chile

New Zealand book their ticket to Chile

The final day of the 16th edition of the 2015 OFC U-17 Championship was rich in goals, intensity and drama at Pago Park Soccer Stadium in Pago Pago, American Samoa.
As predicted, the final match was a close game between the two best defensive sides of the tournament. The first half saw end-to-end play, however neither side were able to secure the all-important goal and both teams would rue missed opportunities.
A free kick was awarded to each team within the first five minutes that neither could capitalise on due to some outstanding defence including a goal line clearance by Tahiti’s Vaianui Drollet.
New Zealand found themselves under pressure in the final minutes of the first half, with goal keeper Michael Woud called on a number of times to pull off some spectacular saves.
The Kiwis did have the final say of the half however, with Connor Probert managing to get a shot on goal from a corner but his shot was off target, keeping the score locked at 0-0 at half time.
Tahiti had the first opportunity in the second half with Marc Siejidr forcing Woud to punch his shot away, followed a short time later by team mate Brandon Autai who attacked up the right hand side before New Zealand defender William Jones could get a foot in.
New Zealand regained control of the game with a number of attacks on goal between Logan Rogerson, Probert and Liam Williams, who all eventually had their paths blocked by the Tahitian defence of Siejidr, Joachim Tenuanua and Tahitian goal keeper Vaiarii Halligan.
Both teams kept pushing and it eventually paid off with New Zealand breaking the deadlock in the 60th minute. Probert again on attack, found Rogerson at the penalty spot who slotted the ball into the back of the net to take the lead with his 11th goal of the tournament.
Three minutes later New Zealand were given an opportunity to double their lead when Solomon Islands’ referee Nelson Sogo pointed to the penalty spot. Probert missed the shot which proved to be a costly mistake when nine minutes from full time Tahiti’s Honoarii Kohumoetini, who had come onto the pitch only a minute earlier, scored from close range.
The goal was the last decisive action of the match, with the game ending with score locked at 1-1.
In line with the FIFA World Cup knockout stage, the game went straight to penalties to find the Oceania representative at the U-17 showcase tournament in Chile in October.
Woud saved top goal scorer Michel Maihi’s first penalty shot for Tahiti and all five of New Zealand’s penalty takers, Louie Mills, Jones, Oliver Ceci, Ben Mata and Probert all converted their penalties to win the game 5-4 and earn their team’s position at their fifth consecutive U-17 World Cup.
New Zealand coach Jose Figueira was relieved after the intense game.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game but I am so proud about the players today.”
Figueira commented that it has been a long tournament, with five group stage games before the semi-final and final over a three week period.
“Credit has to go to all the players in the squad, the staff and the work everyone has put in to keep the boys healthy, focussed and on task has been phenomenal.”
Tahitian coach Ludovic Graugnard was proud of his players and what they had shown during the tournament.
“Losing a final just by one penalty shot, it is very difficult to accept.
“I would like to congratulate the players with the courage they have shown today and during the tournament,” he said.
In the earlier match of the day, it was a one-sided affair between Vanuatu and New Caledonia, the ni-Vanuatu winning the game 6-0 to take third place in the championship.
Vanuatu set the tone early, scoring the first goal in the third minute of the game when their top goal scorer Sylvain Worworbu found himself one-on-one with New Caledonian goal keeper Jacques Wazizi and slotted the ball past him.
After conceding the first goal, New Caledonia responded and started to put pressure on Vanuatu’s defence. Both Wazizi and Vanuatu’s goal keeper Willie Dick were called into action a number of times during the first half, the best chance falling to New Caledonia’s Armand Harper who squandered a good chance to equalise in the 16th minute.
It wasn’t until the first minute of added time of the first half that Sam TIaou scored in his own net after William Edison was able to penetrate the New Caledonian defence.
Early in the second half Vanuatu cemented the game, scoring twice in quick succession in the 53rd and 55th minutes by Worworbu securing his brace, and Ronaldo Wilkins also getting on the score sheet.
Brave defending from New Caledonia saw the side keep Vanuatu at bay until the 84th minute when Xavier Jimmy scored in wet conditions to take the lead to 5-0.
Worworbu scored his third goal of the game in the first minute of added time to end the game 6-0 and secure third place for his side at the OFC U-17 Championship.
Vanuatu coach Etienne Mermer was happy to have clinched third place.
“I would like to congratulate the players. Our objective at the start [of the Championship] was to reach the semi-final, and to finish third it is a good result for us,” he said.
After the final game, New Caledonia coach Kamali Fitialeata reflected on the tournament his team competed in.
“We made a few changes in the team to give some players some experience at this level. I felt we played a good tournament overall. At the beginning I didn’t think we would reach the semi-finals so I am happy about what we have shown.”
In the individual awards the Golden Gloves went to Tahitian goalkeeper Vaiarii Halligan, the Golden Boot went to Solomon Islands’ Larry Zama who finished top goal scorer of the tournament with 13 goals. The Golden Ball for the overall best player went to Logan Rogerson and the Fair-Play Award went to American Samoa.

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