The Young All Whites will open the semi-finals of the 16th edition of this competition against Vanuatu at 1pm at Pago Park Soccer Stadium, Pago Pago, American Samoa.
The heavily favoured New Zealanders are yet to lose a semi-final encounter since Australia left the Oceania Football Confederation in 2007. They have backed up their record with five dominant performances in Group A seeing them finish undefeated with 29 goals scored and five goals against. Jose Figuieira’s players have shown both physical and mental resilience in the face of unfamiliar conditions, and in particular during their gruelling 5-4 win against New Caledonia. New Zealand can count on their leading goal scorer Logan Rogerson to continue in the role he established as a key player in the side’s qualification for the semi-finals, with the young Ngaruawahia man scoring eight goals in the group stage.
Melanesian-side Vanuatu fought hard to finish first in Group B but lost 2-0 in their final group game against Tahiti to finish behind the French territory, and forced to face-off against the five-time defending champions. Vanuatu and New Zealand have met four times in the OFC U-17 Championship and the best result Vanuatu have mustered remains a 1-1 draw back in 2003. In the battle of Group B, the Ni-Vanuatu made their intentions clear from the outset with solid back-to-back victories; 13-0 against American Samoa and 9-0 against Tonga. The important moment in the race for the semi-finals was the 2-1 win over Solomon Islands which secured their qualification for the knock-out stage. Coach Etienne Mermer has high hopes prolific striker Sylvain Worworbu will bounce back from injury for the clash against New Zealand but he will be without sturdy defender Jeffrey Tasso, suspended following his red card against Tahiti.
The second semi-final will see the Francophone rivalry between Tahiti and New Caledonia heat up as both vie for a coveted spot in the final at 3.30pm at Pago Park Soccer Stadium, Pago Pago, American Samoa.
Like New Zealand, Tahiti remain undefeated in this tournament after winning all five games in Group B. However unlike their Kiwi counterparts, the Tahitians have also managed to keep a clean sheet. Tahiti have been consistent in their game and the experience of their coach Ludovic Graugnard has been an important factor in the results of his side. Encountering New Caledonia in high-stakes games isn’t a new experience for Graugnard who was part of the coaching staff when Tahiti beat Les Cagous in final of the 2012 OFC Nations Cup to qualify for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil. Graugnard knows it will be a tough game but he can count on Michel Maihi, Heirauarii Salem, Ryan Petitgas, Joseph Tenuanua and the rest of his players to bring Tahiti into the final. History favours the Tahitians, especially in recent times, as their head-to-head with the Caledonians has seen them win two games 5-2 and 3-1 respectively in 2009 and 2011. They drew once in 2007 and lost 2-1 in 1983.
New Caledonia have on their side a talented group of players, with individuals who can make a difference at important moments. Marino Akapo and Joris Kenon showed that when they both scored to secure New Caledonia’s place in the semi-final with the 2-1 victory over Papua New Guinea in the final Group A encounter. Les Cagous launched into the tournament with a 3-0 win against Samoa which was followed up with two more successes against Cook Islands and Fiji. In the which could have secured them early qualification for the next stage, and top position in the group, New Caledonia delivered an outstanding performance, taking New Zealand to the wire before being downed 5-4. New Caledonia have beaten Tahiti just once before in this competition, when they secured a 2-1 win in 1983.
Live text updates will be available at www.oceaniafootball.com , while updates and social media commentary are on Twitter : @OFCfootball and the official Oceania Football Confederation : Facebook page
Video Content Semi-Finals Preview here
OFC U-17 Championship – SEMI-FINALS PREVIEW
This is the official preview of the 2015 OFC U-17 Championship semi-finals. Please note squads are subject to change.
New Zealand v Vanuatu
1.00pm local time, Saturday 24 January
Pago Park Soccer Stadium
Pago Pago, American Samoa
Referee: Kader ZITOUNI [TAH]
Assistant Referee 1: Douglas METE [SOL]
Assistant Referee 2: Lemusa ALATASI [ASA]
4th Official: Averii JACQUES [TAH]
Vital Statistics: New Zealand are still undefeated in this tournament and they have never lost a semi-final since 2007.
The Players: Logan Rogerson will continue in the role he established as a key player in the side’s qualification for the semi-finals, with the young Ngaruawahia man scoring eight goals in the group stage.
Coach Quote: ‘’We take one game at the time we are not thinking further ahead. All the four teams who are here in the semi-finals are for a reason, they are strongest teams. We have to make sure we are ready and play at the top of our game against Vanuatu.’’
Squad List: 1. Michael WOUD [GK], 2. Jack-Henry SINCLAIR, 3. Luke JOHNSON, 4. William JONES, 5. Sione FA’APOI, 6. Liam WILLIAMS, 7. Oliver CECI, 8. Sarpreet SINGH, 9. Jack ANDERSON, 10. Logan ROGERSON, 11. Louie MILLS, 12. Reuben CLARK [GK], 13. Sean SKEENS, 14. James McGARRY, 15. Connor PROBERT, 16. Jamie WOODLOCK, 17. Ben KIORE, 18. Daniel LOUGH, 19. Sam WILSON, 20. Ben MATA
Coach: Jose FIGUIERA [ENG]
Vital Statistics: Vanuatu have never beaten New Zealand at the OFC U-17 Championship. Their best result is a 1-1 draw back in 2003.
The Players: Coach Etienne Mermer hopes his top scorer Sylvain Worworbu will bounce back from injury while defender Jeffrey Tasso will be suspended.
Coach Quote: ‘’It will be a difficult game. Anything can happen against a New Zealand team. The game against Tahiti was a good test for us to prepare for the semi-final.’’
Squad List: 1. Willie DICK [GK], 2. Joseph IARUEL, 3. Nicky OBED, 4. Jeffrey TASSO, 5. John JOHN, 6. William EDISON, 7. Frederick MASSING, 8. Jonathan SPOKEYJACK, 9. Sylvain WORWORBU, 10. Ronaldo WILKINS,11. Abednigo SAU, 12. Barnabe TALIBAN, 13. Xavier JIMMY, 14. Max UGUNA, 15. Simeon JOSHUA, 16. Gregory PATRICK, 17. Jayson TIMATUA, 18. Derek BULE, 20. Andreas DUCH [GK]
Coach: Etienne Mermer [VAN]
Tahiti v New Caledonia
3.30pm local time, Saturday 24 January
Pago Park Soccer Stadium
Pago Pago, American Samoa
Referee: Salesh CHAND [FIJ]
Assistant Referee 1: Ravinesh KUMAR [FIJ]
Assistant Referee 2: Ujwaal MUDLIAR [FIJ]
4th Official: Nelson SOGO [SOL]
Vital Statistics: Tahiti are undefeated in this tournament. It is also the only team who haven’t conceded a goal.
The Players: Striker Michel Maihi, midfielders Heiruarii Salem, Rayan Petitgas and defenders Vaianui Drollet and Joshua Tenuanua will the the key players in the match against New Caledonia.
Coach Quote: “New Caledonia is a good team, it is a pleasure to play against them. We know they are fast with good individual technical skills.’’
Squad List: 1. Vaiarii HALLIGAN [GK], 2. Heimana TAVERE, 3. Brandon AUTAI, 4. Vaianui DROLLET, 5. Joachim TENUANUA, 6. Rayan PETITGAS, 7. Keali WONG, 8. Roonui TEHAU. 9. Ariinui TIATOA, 10. Michel MAIHI, 11. Heirauarii SALEM, 12. Kitin MARO, 13. Etienne TETARIA, 14. Rainui NORDMAN, 15. Marc SIEJIDR, 16. Moana PITO [GK], 17. Kaena ONUU, 18. Mau
ri HEITAA, 19. Honoarii KOHUMOETINI, 20. Romain COURTADE, 21. Hauragi HURI, 22. Roy VONGEY.
Coach: Ludovic GRAUGNARD [TAH]
Vital Statistics: New Caledonia have beaten Tahiti once in their history, a 2-1 win back in 1983.
The Players: Up front Henri Boucheron and Joris Kenon remain key players for their ability to create and finish, sometimes from nothing. Sam Sinedo and Jimmy Guseal are the stabilising factors in the defence.
Coach Quote: “We will take this game against Tahiti like any other games knowing it is a semi-final and maybe a qualification for the final. ‘’
Squad List: 1. Jacques WAZIZ (GK), 2. Lucas BITAUD, 3. Jean-Marc KAUDRE, 4. Jimmy GUSEAL, 5. Sam SINEDO, 6. Renzo WEJIEME, 7. Marino AKAPO, 8. Joseph HNAGONE, 9. Henri BOUCHERON, 10. Joris KENON, 11. Armand HARPER, 12. Valerian MICHALAK, 13. Takiave TEIHOTAATA, 14. Maxime BETOULLE, 15. Brandon STREETER, 16. Nelson KAI, 17. Ernest AKON, 18. Etienne POANOUI, 19. Nelson KAKUE, 20. Patrick NYIKEINE [GK]
Coach: Kamali FITIALEATA [NCL]