After an encouraging opener against the hosts for New Caledonia, defending champions New Zealand welcomed debutants Tahiti with a 17-1 trounce in a goal-packed second day at the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship 2017 in Apia, Samoa.
New Caledonia got their campaign underway in the manner they intend to continue, brushing aside Samoa 6-0 in the opening match of Group A’s first day of action.
There was structure and determination evident in both sides as the match kicked off and both sides enjoyed a couple of promising advances.
The early advantage was there for the taking for Samoa after Sina Sataraka was taken down right on the edge of the area and a free kick was given. Unfortunately she just lifted it over the cross bar to the disappointment of the gathered home supporters.
A free kick for New Caledonia on the half-hour mark was perfectly taken allowing Katinka Takamatsu to poke the ball into the back of the net. Ten minutes later and New Caledonia were two goals up on their opponents as Edsy Matao got on the end of the ball and firing it past goalkeeper Meripa Seumanutafa.
Soon after the second half started New Caledonia extended their lead when Takamatsu received a low pass from Jackie Pahoa, firing it inside the upright for her brace. The fourth was a Samoan own goal, but the fifth was another Takumatsu ripper to earn her a hat-trick.
After an afternoon of near misses and setting up her teammates, Pahoa got on the board herself.
New Caledonia coach Mathieu Delcroix said after a measured start to the match, his side found their feet and were able to put plenty of pressure on their opponent.
“We didn’t start so strong, I think partly because it’s the first game, the first tournament,” he said.
“Samoa also presented us with a strong, physical challenge especially in the first ten minutes.
“We tried to do our own thing, play our game, and slowly the girls started taking the match in hand to produce some good things on the field.”
It was a different experience for Samoa coach Guillermo Schiltenwolf who was incredibly disappointed his side couldn’t continue to play as they started.
“The first ten or fifteen minutes I think we did alright, although we missed a free kick early on,” he said.
“But after that I don’t know what happened, they switched off and we conceded six goals so I’m disappointed.”
Schiltenwolf said his side had focused on defending but started to lose their shape after conceding.
“The girls switched off a bit after that second goal, but New Caledonia had two very good strikers too so credit to them.”
New Zealand came out guns-blazing in the second match of the day, stunning Tahiti in the early minutes of the game with Kelli Brown finding the net four times in the first 12 minutes.
Tahiti found their feet and fought back in the 13th minute with a great build-up setting Heipua Kohueinui to get her name on the scoresheet, but conceding snapped New Zealand back into action. The ball was at the other end of the field only minutes later and Arabella Maynard added two more to New Zealand’s tally.
New Zealand took advantage of Tahiti’s high-sitting backline four more times before the half-time whistle, with Grace Wisnewski and Maya Hahn converting and Brown increasing her tally to six.
The second half saw Tahiti play a completely different game, dropping deep and managing better to hold New Zealand out of goal despite half-time substitute Maggie Jenkins causing the Francophones trouble, finding the net twice throughout the half.
Two more for Wisnewski, and one more each for Brown and Maynard had New Zealand sitting on 16 goals as they entered injury time, but the game wasn’t over until substitute Aniela Jensen squeezed in one final goal.
Holding her head high and keeping positive after a tough welcome from the defending champions, Tahiti coach Stephanie Speilmann is focusing on the positives of the game and patching up weaknesses ahead of their next match.
“It was very, very hard for us. New Zealand is a great team and we saw that today but I’m proud of my girls because it was their first international match and in the second half we were better in defence,” she said.
“This was a good match for us to learn a lot of things. We know that our group is really hard. Samoa, New Zealand and New Caledonia – it is a great group for us. Every match is a final for us. We will learn, we will work and we will win a match – maybe against Samoa.”
Although he was pleased to secure three points in the opening match, New Zealand coach Leon Birnie gave credit to Tahiti for taking more control of the game in the second half and exposing New Zealand’s weaknesses.
“It was a good start. We came in there with some anxious girls – it is their first time coming to a tournament and putting the silver fern on – so to get three points at the end of it was a pretty good start,” he said.
“There’s definitely some areas to work on. I think physically Tahiti had the better of us and that’s something we’re going to go away and work on.
“In possession, I thought our movement at times was a little bit slow and if we can move quicker in front of the ball we’ll be able to open up teams. That’s something we’ve worked on in the past and need to build on moving forward.”