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New Caledonia proud despite falling short

NOUMEA: The New Caledonia football team has earned praise at home and abroad despite falling short at the last hurdle to gold medal winners Fiji at the South Pacific Games last Friday.

Not rated a chance before the tournament, New Caledonia showed the benefits of having a well organised high standard domestic national league and a tough warm up tour of Australia prior to arriving in Fiji.

Led by captain, Jean-Marc Case, one of the standout players of the South Pacific Games, the team showed attacking flair and impeccable team work to stun defending champions Tahiti, contenders Papua New Guinea as well as Tonga and Federated States of Micronesia in group play, before edging past Vanuatu in the semi-finals.

Faced against hosts Fiji in the gold medal playoff in front of over 10,000 spectators, New Caledonia’s fairytale run came to an end after heavy rain prior to kick-off ruined any chance of an open spectacle. With both teams having to cope in the treacherous conditions, the physical style imposed by the Fijians won out over New Caledonia’s passing game which was never suited to the conditions.

Federation de Nouvelle Caledonie president, Claude Fournier, was disappointed at the final result but paid tribute the team’s excellent result in getting as far as they did conceding the conditions in the gold medal playoff were not favourable.

Coach Serge Martinengo De Novack also agreed that the conditions were a leveller for his team who were not used to playing in those conditions. But he was none the less pleased with the progress the team had made and making the final put to rest the disappointment of the poor performance of the team at last year’s OFC Nations Cup in Auckland.

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