With kick-off only one day away, the four contenders in Group A are feeling confident of opening their OFC U-17 Championship campaign with a bang at Stade Mahina in Papeete, Tahiti.
New Caledonia will meet Papua New Guinea before the hosts and 2015 finalists take on regional up-and-comers Vanuatu at 4pm and 7pm respectively in the OFC U-17 Championship.
Tahiti are counting on the support of a large home crowd for their 7pm clash against Vanuatu, a nation that has proven dominant in youth football in recent years, qualifying for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup after reaching the final of the 2016 OFC U-20 Championship.
Expecting a highly competitive match against the Melanesians, Tahiti coach Patrice Flaccadori believes the commitment shown by his side during their preparation bodes well for the campaign ahead.
“We’ve been preparing for a while now and I think the boys are all engaged in the project,” he said.
“We’ve been conducting up to four trainings a week and playing a match once a week.
“In terms of fitness and athleticism, we’re doing well. In terms of tactics we’ve improved and we’ve been working on our weaknesses so I think we’ll perform well.”
Vanuatu coach Rocky Neveserveth is also expecting a challenging match, especially with their Polynesian opponents having the home advantage.
“To play against the host country in our debut match, it forces us to be ready from the outset,” he said.
“Tahiti at home, it’s an honour, but it’s not a problem. We’re ready for the match, we’re prepared to play them.”
New Caledonia will open the day of Group A action at 4pm when they take on Papua New Guinea in a clash between two sides brimming with young talent eager to make their mark in a match and which New Caledonia coach Michel Clarque is intrigued to see play out.
“For many of my players, it’s their first time in a national team,” he said.
“It’s an excellent opportunity for my players to discover the level across the Pacific.”
Papua New Guinea are not underestimating their Francophone opponents but coach Harrison Kamake believes his side has the ability to win if they continue performing like they have been over the past few months.
“I think we have a chance if we have the right attitude and approach to the game,” he said.
“We had two weeks in New Zealand to help prepare for the tournament and it helped us a lot, especially the friendlies.”
New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea will meet in the opening match of the competition at 4pm (local time) before Tahiti take on Vanuatu at 7pm (local time) in the first day of Group A action in the 2017 OFC U-17 Championship at Stade Mahina in Papeete, Tahiti on 11 February.
New Caledonia vs. Papua New Guinea
Saturday 11 February
Referee: George TIME (SOL)
Assistant Referee 1: Folio MOEAKI (TGA)
Assistant Referee 2: Gareth SHEEHAN (NZL)
Fourth Official: Hamilton SIAU (SOL)
Vital Statistics: New Caledonia were dominant throughout the group stage of the last edition of the competition, defeating Papua New Guinea 2-1 in their final group match to join group winner New Zealand in the semi-final.
The Players: Cyril Nyipie proved his attacking strength in last year’s OFC U-20 Championship in Vanuatu, scoring New Caledonia’s only goal in their 3-1 loss to New Zealand in the semi-final.
Coach Quote: “This is a chance for us to discover what this level is like. For many it’s their first time in a national team.”
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)
Papua New Guinea
Vital Statistics: In their seven appearances at the OFC U-17 Championship, Papua New Guinea have never progressed on to the knockout stage of the competition. Their highest ranking was in 2001, where they placed second in their group, three points behind former OFC member Australia.
The Players: Sixteen-year-old Emmanuel Simongi has a lot of experience to contribute having spent the last months of 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand as part of the inaugural OFC Education Centre. Simongi attended One Tree Hill College while training in the OFC programme.
Coach Quote: “We have the players ready and by the match day everything should be in place.”
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)
Tahiti vs. Vanuatu
Saturday 11 February
Referee: Matthew CONGER (NZL)
Assistant Referee 1: Tevita MAKASINI (TGA)
Assistant Referee 2: Maleatala SALANOA (SAM)
Fourth Official: Salesh CHAND (FIJ)
Vital Statistics: Tahiti’s closest attempt at the title was in the last edition of the competition where the francophone contenders battled New Zealand to a 1-1 draw in the 90-minute final. The Polynesians’ World Cup dream ended after losing 5-4 in the penalty shootout.
The Players: Goalkeeper Moana Pito will be feeling confident after his experience on the international stage at the 2016 OFC U-20 Championship, where Tahiti faced Solomon Islands, Cook Islands and New Zealand in a challenging pool, just falling short of the knockout stage.
Coach Quote: “We don’t know what the results will be, but we respect everyone and we’re looking forward to it.”
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: Tahiti was the only team to defeat Vanuatu in the group stage of the 2015 OFC U-17 Championship. Vanuatu placed second in the group and progressed on to the semi-final where they were defeated 5-1 by Group A winners New Zealand.
The Players: Abert Vanva is taking the field for his country for the first time, but the midfielder has plenty of international football experience having joined Papua New Guinea’s Emmanual Simongi in the inaugural OFC Education Centre. As part of the development programme, both players participated in tournaments against local New Zealand-based football teams.
Coach Quote: “Tahiti at home, it’s an honour, but it’s not a problem. We’re ready for the match, we’re prepared to play them.”
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)
To view the match schedule for the OFC U-17 Championship 2017 visit www.oceaniafootball.com