When host nation Fiji take on Papua New Guinea in the OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022 final at Suva’s HFC Bank Stadium on Saturday there will not only be a place in next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ Play-Off Tournament at stake.
There will also be an opportunity to break new ground, by putting a new name under the winners column of the region’s premier women’s competition.
Only three nations have previously won the OFC Women’s Nations Cup. Chinese Taipei won it successively in 1986 and 1989 while Australia went on their own streak through 1994, 1998 and 2003. Both nations are no longer Member Associations of the OFC.
New Zealand remain an OFC member and are the region’s dominant force in this competition, winning it on the other six occasions, including most recently in 2018.
However, with the Football Ferns already qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ as co-hosts alongside Australia, the decision was taken not to compete in this year’s edition of the regional showpiece.
It left a unique opportunity on the horizon for the nine teams competing in Fiji at the 2022 event – the chance to become just the fourth nation to win this prize.
Therefore, following their respective semi-final wins, Fiji or Papua New Guinea will be crowned champions of Oceania for the first time ever.
Both have come close before. Fiji were losing finalists four years ago while Papua New Guinea finished as runners-up in the three tournaments prior to that.
On Saturday, both nations will have the chance to create history. It is a fact not lost on Papua New Guinea head coach Nicola Demaine.
“We came here to make history so going one step better than the last competition we are definitely on that path to do that,” said Demaine after her team’s 3-0 semi-final win over Samoa.
“We will see if we can finish the job off.”
With a trophy win would come qualification for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Play-off Tournament, being held in Auckland and Hamilton, New Zealand, next February.
Fiji or Papua New Guinea would join nine other nations from the remaining FIFA Confederations, with the likes of Cameroon, Chinese Taipei and Chile already qualified.
New Zealand international Annalie Longo knows all about winning the OFC Women’s Nations Cup, having done so in 2014 and 2018.
Speaking at the draw for this year’s edition of the regional tournament, she spoke of her high hopes that an OFC sister nation could join New Zealand at next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.
“It is a massive opportunity and I am just so excited for another team from Oceania to possibly get the opportunity to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup,” said Longo.
“It is really important as a New Zealander as well, we want to keep building OFC to be competitive and really build our game and grow our players…hopefully we can have two teams represent Oceania at the World Cup next year.”
The winner of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022 will be decided when host nation Fiji take on pre-tournament favourites Papua New Guinea at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva on Saturday, July 30 at 7.00pm local time.