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PNG knocking on Olympics door

The event was held from August 27 to September 9 in New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea earned yet another gold medal with a 2-1 win over the hosts in the final.
That effort means they will be hot favourites going into the Olympic qualifying tournament in Fiji – the winner of which will go on to face New Zealand’s Football Ferns for a place at London 2012 – and coach Steven Mune says planning has already begun for the qualification campaign.
Despite losing only one match during their march to the Games title, a 2-1 reversal against eventual finalists New Caledonia in the group stages, Mune insists there is plenty of room for improvement and says work on these areas must begin shortly.
He has even refused to rule out making personnel changes to the Games-winning team.
“I can say that there are a number of areas where improvements will be made through possible changes to the team,” he says.
“The start of the women’s National Soccer League will be a good opportunity to be on the look out for potential players we feel the team needs.”
Mune says most parts of the squad, from strike power up front to distribution in the midfield and a strengthening of the defence, will be included in the overhaul before he considers sending a team abroad again.
“Our lead-up matches in Australia and then the Pacific Games in New Caledonia highlighted a lot of areas in terms of our positive aspects. But it also showed a number of areas in which we were lacking,” he says.
“The next couple of months will be important in gauging our strengths again and we need to be confident we can go through to the next round of the Olympic qualifiers.”
The road to London will not be an easy one for the nine OFC member associations expected to take part in qualifying.
As the highest-ranked women’s side in Oceania, New Zealand will be seeded to the second stage while the eight other Pacific countries who are International Olympic Committee (IOC) members – American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu – will play a tournament based on a league system with semi-finals and a final.
The winner of the preliminary stage final will then play-off with New Zealand and, as was the case for the 2008 Olympics, the victor will qualify for the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012.
For more on Papua New Guinea football go to www.pngfootball.com.pg

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