The Cook Islands played in their first ever main finals tournament win at an OFC U-19 Championship, beating American Samoa 4-0 to secure third-place in Group A and knock their opponents out of the 2022 edition in Tahiti.
Goals from Silas Trego, Ngametua Tuakana and a Dalziel Beal brace earned victory at Stade Fautaua in Papeete and kept the nation’s hopes of reaching the quarter-finals alive.
The Cook Islands conceded early in their previous group stage fixtures and nearly did so again when Petu Pouli’s speculative half-volley called goalkeeper Ngereine Maro into action.
However, despite American Samoa’s strong start, it was the Cook Islands who eventually took the lead inside the opening 10 minutes. Trego scored the goal, sliding his finish beyond the onrushing Penieli Atu after an incisive through ball from Shane Tuteru.
The Cook Islands enjoyed wins over American Samoa in both the 2016 and 2018 preliminary rounds of this competition and were well on their way to another triumph when Tuakana doubled their advantage.
Once again, the assist bettered the goal, with Beal’s outside of the boot pass unleashing Tuakana, who fired beyond Atu at the near post.
Despite their endeavour, American Samoa failed to challenge Maro in the Cook Islands goal, Pouli’s long-range effort the closest they came in a disjointed second period.
Beal’s late goal show tied the ribbon on the performance, finishing twice off assists from substitute Marcus Gibbens, sealing success with a flourish for Tahiri Elikana’s side.
The Cook Islands’ only previous win in this competition was awarded to them in 2001 after opponents Samoa withdrew, making this a historic victory..
They will now wait for the outcome from Group B and C to discover if they advance to the quarter-finals as one of the best third-placed teams. For American Samoa the wait for a main finals win goes on and their 2022 adventure comes to an end.
American Samoa U-19 0
Cook Islands U-19 4 (Silas TREGO 9’, Ngametua TUAKANA 18′, Dalziel BEAL 79′, 88′)