A face-off between Oceania’s two Francophone nations is sure to fill the stands at Stade Mahina on Tuesday when hosts Tahiti take on current table leaders New Caledonia on the second day of Group A action in the OFC U-17 Championship in Papeete, Tahiti on 14 February.
Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu will open the day of action as they both fight for their first points in the competition at 4pm (local time).
Although their 3-2 loss to New Caledonia was heart-breaking for Papua New Guinea coach Harrison Kamake, he remains focussed on staying constructive and tweaking the side’s weaknesses.
“We are playing Vanuatu and they definitely are a good team,” he said.
“We’ll just have to revisit some of the basics and work from there.”
Also seeking redemption after their 1-0 loss to Tahiti, Vanuatu coach Rocky Neveserveth is working to improve the combinations in his side before their second chance at points on Tuesday.
“You could see that we lacked a certain level of preparation but we will do everything we can to stay here in the competition as long as possible,” he said.
“They haven’t lost their focus, they still have belief for the next game.”
Neveserveth is expecting a more calm and structured game from his side without the intimidation of Tahiti’s home crowd in their second match but still believes his side’s weaknesses will be tested by Papua New Guinea.
“Papua New Guinea will be a tough opponent. They have a great game style and we will do our best to work hard on our finishing and our defence.”
New Caledonia will have their turn at facing Tahiti’s passionate crowd when they meet the hosts in their highly-anticipated fixture at 7pm.
Although the match will be high-pressure for the young New Caledonia side, coach Michel Clarque is looking forward to facing their fellow Francophones and hopes to use the match as a chance to learn and develop with his team.
“The next match is sort of between friends and brothers,” he said.
“There’s always been a little something between Tahiti and New Caledonia of course, and there’s somewhat of a difference between our preparations for this tournament compared with the other team.
“It’s the type of tournament where we always want to try and do a lot of teaching, and then we can continue to benefit from these learnings in the future as well.”
Despite their 1-0 win against Vanuatu, Tahiti coach Patrice Flaccadori hopes to see a better 90-minute performance from his side in their second match.
“In the second half, the whole time we were under pressure. When you win the ball you need to hold on to it, to keep possession, and we weren’t so good at that,” he said.”
Flaccadori believes his side will need to up the intensity against New Caledonia if they plan to overtake the Melanesians on the table.
“They won 3-2 so they’re ahead of us in the standings, so we’re going to do what we need to in order to win this match. It’s a very important game for us.”
Papua New Guinea vs. Vanuatu
Tuesday 14 February
Papua New Guinea
Vital Statistics: The last time Papua New Guinea met Vanuatu in an OFC U-17 Championship was in 2013 when the Melanesian sides fought to a 1-1 draw in their opening group stage match.
The Players: Defender Kimson Kapai proved dangerous in the side’s first match against New Caledonia on Sunday, chancing it on an opportunity and firing from nearly half-way to score Papua New Guinea’s first goal of the competition.
Coach Quote: “We are playing Vanuatu and they definitely are a good team. We’ll just have to revisit some of the basics and work from there.”
Papua New Guinea: 1. Charley NINGIKAU (GK), 2. Milton BIWA, 3. Kimson KAPAI, 4. Sylvester LUKE, 5. Freeman GIWI, 6. Samuel DETNOM, 7. Emmanuel SIMONGI, 8. Aben PUKUE, 9. Barthy KEROBIN, 10. Oberth SIMON, 11. Yagi YASASA, 12. Ricky WADUNAH, 13. Thomas KONGRAGLE, 14. Emmanuel YOPIYOPI, 15. Dunstan JEFFEREY, 16. Jonathan ALLEN, 17. Dopson NOI, 18. Wolfram KOB, 19. Abraham ALLEN, 20. Graham BERIGAMI (GK).
Coach: Harrison KAMAKE (PNG)
Vital Statistics: Vanuatu have had several successful campaigns in OFC U-17 Championships over the years, placing second in 2005 when they lost 1-0 to Australia in the final, and more recently progressing to the semi-final in 2015 after defeating American Samoa, Tonga and Solomon Islands to finish second behind Tahiti in the group stage.
The Players: Captain Zidane Maguekon showed great leadership in their first match against Tahiti, directing the backline and combining well with goalkeeper Joshua Willie, whose quick hands picked up or punched away anything that slipped past Maguekon, to hold the score at 1-0.
Coach Quote: “We know that Papua New Guinea are prepared for the game against us but on the field we’ll see who the winner is. We will play our strategy and they will play theirs, but we will try our best to get some points here.”
Vanuatu: 1. Joshua WILLIE (GK), 2. Jayson TARI, 3. Zidane MAGUEKON, 4. Glendon LEKI, 5. Jean-Claude BATICK, 6. Nelsin RAWOR, 7. Alberick WEQUAS, 8. Tom SAKSAK, 9. Rhydley Napau, 10. Abert VANVA, 11. Fred CHRISTION, 12. Andre DAMELIP, 13. Julio TEVANU, 14. Semy Chris IATI, 15. Richard THOMAS, 16. Dilland NGWELE, 17. Presley ALICK, 18. Tyson GERE, 19. Jack WILLIE, 20. Dgen LEO (GK).
Coach: Rocky NEVESERVETH (VAN)
Tahiti vs. New Caledonia
Tuesday 14 February
Vital Statistics: Last time the two Francophone sides met was in the semi-final of the 2015 edition of the competition. Tahiti took out the top spot in the close 3-2 match, and continued on to face New Zealand in the final.
The Players: Yann Vivi will be an important player to mark after he scored the only goal in Tahiti’s 1-0 win against Vanuatu. The midfielder positioned himself perfectly to head a long ball from his backline over the Vanuatu goalkeeper’s hands and into the back of the net.
Coach Quote: “We’re going to do what we need to in order to win this match. It’s a very important game for us.”
Tahiti: 1. Tevaearai TAMATAI (GK), 2. Ariimana TAAROAMEA, 3. Taumihau TEHAAMOANA, 4. Tohivea HARING, 5. Giovanni BOOENE, 6. Kavai’ei MORGANT, 7. Ryann BOUKROUMA, 8. Eddy KASPARD, 9. Tutehau TUFARIUA, 10. Yann VIVI, 11. Hitiora HANERE, 12. Bryand TETUANUI, 13. Herearii KOHUMOETINI, 14. Tautu HEITARAURI, 15. Kalahani BEAUMERT, 16. Moana PITO, 17. Terai BREMOND, 18. Moanahau LAI, 19. Diego ARANEDA, 20. Nohoarii GARBUTT.
Coach: Patrice FLACCADORI (FRA)
Vital Statistics: In their past nine appearances at the OFC U-17 Championship, New Caledonia have only progressed from the group stage of the competition four times, but after their 3-2 win against Papua New Guinea on Saturday, the side is placed alongside Tahiti at the top of Group A and will be feeling confident about qualifying for their fifth semi-final appearance.
The Players: Paul Gope-Fenepej lived up to his family name in New Caledonia’s first match against Papua New Guinea, scoring the first two goals of the match to secure the three points for his nation. The midfielder wasted no time on the field, opening the scoring in the fifth minute.
Coach Quote: “The next match is sort of between friends and brothers. There’s always been a little something between Tahiti and New Caledonia.”
New Caledonia: 1. Germain ITA (GK), 2. Josuah HLEMU, 3. Titouan RICHARD, 4. Kiam WANESSE, 5. Cameron WADENGES, 6. Abiezer JENO, 7. Raymond LUEWADRIA, 8. Cyril NYIPIE, 9. Vita LONGUE, 10. Lionel THAHNAENA, 11. Paul GOPE-FENEPEJ, 12. Bernard IWA, 13. RAOUL WENISSO, 14. Japhet QAEZE, 15. Ezeckiel TAOUAVAMA, 16. Pierre BAKO, 17. Jean-Pierre ENOKA, 18. Robert CAIHE, 19. Henri KAPOERI, 20. Unë KECINE (GK).
Coach: Michel CLARQUE (NCL)
To view the match schedule for the OFC U-17 Championship 2017 visit www.oceaniafootball.com