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Oceania teams out of finals contention at Milk Cup

OFC: The Samoa and Otago youth teams both lost their third consecutive matches of the group qualifying section yesterday and are now out of contention for the Milk Cup quarterfinals in Northern Ireland.

Samoa, competing in the junior division, went down 0-7 (0-3 half-time) to English side Preston North End while Otago, competing in the premier division, lost 0-2 to local side County Armagh.

For Samoa, it was another improved performance after their 0-11 thrashing at the hands of County Armagh in their first match on 19 July. Playing tougher teams such as Scottish side Livingston (losing 0-7) and yesterday against Preston North End, the Samoan team have performed better.

Samoa showed more attacking enterprise with better use of the little possession it did get, forcing four corners and scoring a goal just before the full-time, only to have the goal disallowed for off-side. The local Irish spectators, who were right in behind the Samoa team voiced their disapproval at the referee’s decision.

Samoan coach David Brand singled out captain Dominiko Tokuma, goal keeper Romeo Sa and Aki Selave as the standout players.

Otago has also found out just how competitive the Milk Cup is, going down in its three matches without scoring a goal. The top quality teams it faced, including Manchester United would be an eye opener for the players and a reminder of the high standard of youth football outside of New Zealand.

The young Samoans will also learn from the Milk Cup experience being the future of the game in the small South Pacific island nation. Brand stayed in a positive frame of mind, saying the boys had improved with every outing against opposing teams that far exceeded them in experience and resources.

“We were proud to have been given this opportunity to represent Oceania and while the results were not so pleasing, the impact of being exposed to football at this level cannot be underestimated and not replicated had we not taken part at all in the Milk Cup,” explained Brand.

“The Milk Cup made a big impression on the players and I believe they are more motivated than ever to improve their game as their eyes have been opened to the opportunities that exist. I just hope we can get more exposure in Samoa through television coverage and taking part in more overseas tournaments.”

The Milk Cup attracts an estimated 100,000 players and spectators annually. The tournament is in its 21st year and is now regarded as one of the world’s premier youth football tournaments with over 56 teams from five continents taking part this year.

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