New Caledonia and Tahiti are expecting tough assignments this Saturday when they take on hosts Samoa and defending champions New Zealand, respectively, in the first day of action for Group A in the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship.
With a passionate Samoan crowd on the sideline for Saturday’s opening match, New Caledonia coach Matthieu Delcroix believes the atmosphere will add to the challenge as many of his players make their first appearance on the international stage.
“It will be a tough draw to begin this tournament,” he said.
“We know that it will be a tough game because the players from Samoa will be in their home so it will be difficult.”
Although he’s approaching the game cautiously, Delcroix is still confident that his side is well-prepared and eager to prove themselves.
“I think we’ve all grown up over the past few weeks,” he said.
“We’re in good spirits week after week so now I think the big question will be the physical capacity – we’ve got to get in good rest and prevent injury – but I know all the girls are ready to prove that New Caledonia is a good country for women’s football.”
Samoa coach Guillermo Schiltenwolf is well aware of the difficult matches ahead in Group A, but with a few international recruits adding experience to his side, he’s looking forward to seeing a competitive Samoan squad turn heads in their opening clash.
“The challenge for us is to try and make the top four. It’s going to be hard because our group is very tough but the girls are ready,” he said.
“We’ve had a few good players come in – one from Australia a few players from the United States. They are very talented players. The local players are also good and some of them will definitely be in the starting line-up.
“We are ready to give them a good challenge.”
The afternoon match will see debutants Tahiti hit the ground running as they take on four-time consecutive champions New Zealand.
Although the draw first came as disappointing news to Tahiti coach Stéphanie Spielmann, she now believes her side is well-prepared and ready to face the first match head-on.
“At first we were a bit worried to play against the best team up first. Now we think it’s a good thing because New Zealand is a great team but we think we can beat them. I’m sure it will be a great match,” she said.
“This is the first time for all of them and they can’t wait to play the first game. We’ve done a lot of work for this competition so we’re looking forward to playing against the other teams to see what our level is.”
Although New Zealand coach Leon Birnie is confident in the ability of his side, he is expecting a tough opening encounter against Tahiit – especially in Samoa’s hot conditions.
“We know very little about them and we’re going into the unknown in this first game but the girls are excited as this is their first international fixture. We’re really looking forward to it,” he said.
“We’ve found it a bit difficult to adapt to the heat so that’s our main concern. We’re working on getting the girls to be able to adapt to the conditions, making sure physically they do everything they can off the field so they’re in the best possible position coming into the game and then mentally during the game when it is hot and it becomes challenging, that they can work through that.”
With the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Uruguay 2018 only one competition title away – and expectation riding on their shoulders – Birnie is keeping his feet on the ground and focusing on each match as they come.
“It’s a new group and for these players, it’s their first time over here. We’ve come here to qualify, that’s one of our goals, and it’s their first experience at this level,” he said.
“While I guess we are favourites and we have done well in the past, it’s a new group, it’s football and anything can happen.
“We’ve got to make sure we approach all the games directly and if we do that, hopefully we’ll come away with the qualification.”
Samoa v New Caledonia
J. S. Blatter Football Complex
Saturday 5 August
Referee: Torika DELAI (FIJ)
Assistant Referee 1: Lonisa DILIONI (FIJ)
Assistant Referee 2: Anna PANGA (PNG)
Fourth Official: Tapaita LELENGA (TGA)
Vital Statistics: Samoa will be looking to improve their placing at the 2017 OFC U-16 Women’s Championship appearance after finishing bottom of their group in their debut last year.
The Players: Taking the field for her country for the first time, New Zealand-based goalkeeper Meripa Seumanutafa has a lot to offer between the posts. Although she’s only 15 years old, Seumanutafa has developed a mature perspective on the game through her experience in the AFF/NFF Women’s Conference league in Auckland this year. Her calm and control in the box – and her impressive reflexes – make her a difficult final defender.
Coach Quote: “So far preparations have been really good. The girls are getting used to the weather and to the trainings and I think we’re ready to compete and perform well. We are ready to give them a good challenge.”
Samoa 1. Meripa SEUMANUTAFA (GK), 2. Angie VON HEIDERBRANDT, 3. Sina SATARAKA, 4. Michayla CHAMBERLAIN, 5. Tiare TUIMAVAVE, 6. Faith TAEOALII, 7. Alisa TUATAGALOA, 8. Zoe RUBY, 9. Madeleen AH KI, 10. Nagem UIAGALELEI, 11. Kaylani LAUTAIMI, 12. Helina PAULO, 13. Paepae TUITAMA, 14. Mata TALIU, 15. Vineta FALEAANA, 18. Andreya HALL, 20. Alana TUALAULELEI (GK).
Coach: Guillermo SCHILTENWOLF (ARG)
Vital Statistics: After a strong start, New Caledonia were unfortunate to place so low in the previous edition of the competition. The Francophones finished second in their group behind New Zealand and continued on to the knockout stage, but close losses to Papua New Guinea and Fiji saw them finish the competition in fourth place.
The Players: Marie-Laure Palene is the only player for New Caledonia with experience at an OFC competition. Palene travelled to Auckland last month to contend in the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship, playing full matches against Samoa, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Tonga. The young midfielder defends and attacks with relentless determination, creating opportunities in front of goal for her teammates and taking attempts herself when the shot is on.
Coach Quote: “We want to have a good rest to prepare for this game. We know that we must be at our top to play Samoa in the first game of the tournament.”
New Caledonia: 1. Lorenza HNAMANO (GK), 2. Justine MALAXAN, 3. Cheyenne CIWE, 4. Babette SIMANE, 5. Melissa IEKAWE, 6. Lucinda KOINDREDI, 7. Imelda QENEGEI, 8. Jackie PAHOA, 9. Katinka TAKAMATSU, 10. Marie-Laure PALENE, 11. Edsy MATAO, 12. Ismaella WEDEMERINWI, 13. Alizé SAKILIA, 14. Loéa AJAPUHNYA, 15. Fiona IHAGE, 16. Marthe KATRAWA, 17. Chloé UFEPI, 18. Anne-Laure ANGEXETINE, 19. Lorna TARAWIE, 20. Serena HULIWA (GK).
Coach: Matthieu DELCROIX (FRA)
Tahiti v New Zealand
J.S. Blatter Football Complex
Saturday 5 August
Referee: Sioane MAU (ASA)
Assistant Referee 1: Shama MAEMAE (SOL)
Assistant Referee 2: Jacinta TANGA (VAN)
Fourth Official: Talalei FAALAVAAU (ASA)
Vital Statistics: Tahiti will be making their OFC U-16 Women’s Championship (previously OFC U-17 Women’s Championship) debut when they meet New Zealand on Saturday.
The Players: Although Naniloa Maro has only recently turned 14 years old, making her the youngest player in the squad, she’s proven her ability to stand her ground in the backline and contribute forward when the side transitions into attack. As the only representative from her domestic club AS Aorai, Maro will be eager to make an impression at the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship.
Coach Quote: “New Zealand are the best team because they are very structured. All the players know what they have to do during the match. I’ve shown my team some highlights from New Zealand and showed them what was important in the game and what New Zealand were doing better than others. We can do the same.”
Tahiti: 1. Vahinerii PURAGA (GK), 2. Hitiana LONG TANG, 3. Vahinerii KIMITETE, 4. Joelle TEPEA, 5. Naniloa MARO, 6. Lokelani HAUATA, 7. Merehau IOTUA, 8. Tevahine TERIINOHOPUAITERAI, 9. Christiane TETAVAHI, 10. Tiare TEKAKIOTERAGI, 11. Tahia TAMARII, 12. Vahuariki TUFAUNUI, 13. Heipua KOHEINUI, 14. Vaihei SAMIN, 15. Ranihei MAHAI, 16. Hélène TEMUTU (GK), 17. Anais TUUA-TAVE, 18. Heidy MARAE, 19. Corail HARRY, 20. Pare FLORES.
Coach: Stéphanie SPIELMANN (TAH)
Vital Statistics: After participating in every edition of the competition since its inauguration, New Zealand remain unbeaten.
The Players: Britney Cunningham-Lee and Grace Wisnewski have both proven themselves dangerous attackers for club Hamilton Wanderers in their domestic league back in New Zealand. Their youthful speed and agility along with their ability to read the game – having developed a strong ability to read play through their experience in senior level football – gives them an extra edge up front.
Coach Quote: “The atmosphere in camp has been really good and really positive. The girls are quite excited because it’s their first time away and it’s their first time putting the fern on and I guess with that comes excitement and its own pressures. They’re really looking forward to it and I think they just want to get across that line and start this first match.”
New Zealand: 1. Georgia CANDY (GK), 2. Shannon TREBES, 3. Aneka MITTENDORFF, 4. Hannah MACKAY-WRIGHT, 5. Amy WATERS, 6. Grace WISNEWSKI, 7. Kelli BROWN, 8. Maya HAHN, 9. Margot RAMSAY, 10. Maggie JENKINS, 11. Arabella MAYNARD, 12. Macey FRASER, 13. Rylee GODBOLD, 14. Mackenzie BARRY, 15. Gabrielle RENNIE, 16. Jayda STEWART, 17. Aniela JENSEN, 18. Britney CUNNINGHAM-LEE.
Coach: Leon BIRNIE (NZL)