Group B comes down to the wire

Image: OFC Media

With Group B’s second semi-final berth either Tonga or Fiji’s for the taking, the two nations will be vying for crucial points when they face Cook Islands and American Samoa, respectively, in their final group matches of the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship tomorrow.

Already out of contention for the semi-final stage, competition debutants American Samoa will be out to cause an upset when they face Tonga in the opening match of the day. Tonga need a strong win – and Cook Islands to defeat Fiji – to equalise with Fiji on points and overtake the Melanesian nation on goal difference.

Feeling positive after claiming their first point of the competition on Monday, Tonga coach Lafaela Moala has put Cook Islands and Fiji’s encounter out of his mind and is keeping focus on repeating the impressive performance Tonga gave against Fiji.

“I’m very excited for the match because even though we drew the last game, it was the best I’ve seen the girls play. They never gave up. They kept playing until the last minute,” he said.

“That’s why I’m so excited to see them play again. I’m expecting to see them at their best again.

“I’m expecting us to get a win. It is a must.”

Despite falling short of the knockout stage, American Samoa’s debut campaign has exceeded the expectations of coach Ruth Tuato’o, who is looking forward to seeing her side leave everything on the field in their final meeting with Tonga.

“The girls have done really well and I’m really proud of how they’ve been performing. I can’t ask for anything else except for them to be prepared for our next game,” she said.

“We’re a bit nervous but the girls have been improving from the first game up until now so I know there’s a lot we can give in this game.”

Cook Islands will be hoping for an unbeaten streak when they meet Fiji at 5pm to avoid a likely clash against New Zealand, who are looking set to win Group A. The second place nation in Group B will likely be drawn against the defending champions, which will be a difficult route to the final.

After a complacent performance against American Samoa in their previous match, Cook Islands coach Theresa Tatuava is preparing her side for a tough encounter and hopes to see her players lift to the intensity she expects from them.

“They got a bit complacent when they got a few goals ahead of American Samoa and they sort of relaxed. That’s not what we can afford to do, especially coming up against Fiji,” she said.

“Fiji isn’t a side that we can underestimate at all. They may have drawn against Tonga and we beat Tonga but that doesn’t tell us anything because they could come back and bring their A-game.

“They’re fast – definitely – and they’ve got a lot of tall girls. They’re physical as well so that’s something we have to compete against as well.”

Regardless of the result between Tonga and American Samoa in the earlier match of the day, Fiji will be fighting for the top spot in the group.

Fiji coach Marika Rodu knows how much is riding on the line in their final Group B encounter, and although they’ve proven their strength, speed and fitness in the past two games, Rodu believes his side’s final match will require a lot of mental strength.

“The girls are doing very well physically but we need to be tough mentally,” he said.

“We’ll try to work our way through the Cook Islands challenge and try to conquer whatever they throw at us.

“They are a well-formed team – Cook Islands – but we’ll try to come at them with speed on Friday.”

Additional Information

Tonga vs American Samoa
J.S. Blatter Football Complex
Apia, Samoa
Friday 11 August
Kick-off: 2pm
#OFCU16W #TGAASA

Match Officials
Referee: Fina ANGELO (VAN)
Assistant Referee 1: Heloise SIMONS (NZL)
Assistant Referee 2: Hilary OSBORN (NZL)
Fourth Official: Arnold TARI (VAN)

Tonga

Vital Statistics: Although Tonga are yet to win a match, the Polynesian nation still has a chance at reaching the semi-final if Fiji lose their match against Cook Islands and Tonga win by a high enough margin to overtake Fiji on goal difference.

The Players: Goalkeeper Kalolaine Topui had a strong game between the posts in Tonga’s previous game against Fiji, keeping the score at 0-0 with impressive saves and strong collaboration with her backline.

Coach Quote: “We still have some room to improve, like in our finishing – we had a chance to score in our last game and didn’t make it – but we’ve been working on that to prepare for this last game.”

Tonga: 1. Mele AHOME’E (GK), 2. Ofa FISI, 3. Mele KAFA, 4. Laveni VAKA, 5. Siunipa TALASINGA, 6. Carmel ‘UHILA, 7. Florence HAKALO, 8. Seini LUTU, 9. Ana POLOVILI, 10. Lositika FEKE, 11. Taipaleti VAI, 12. Kaloaine TONGA, 13. Mele TU’ITAVUKI, 14. Malia OTUKOLO, 15. Ofa ATAONGO, 16. Luseane ‘AKOLO, 17. Mafi PASIKALA, 18. Mele ‘AHO, 19. Keleni TAUKAPO (GK), 20. Kaloaine TOPUI (GK)

Coach: Lafaele MOALA (TGA)

American Samoa

Vital Statistics: Sitting on zero points at the bottom of Group B after two games, American Samoa’s hopes at reaching the knockout are over but the debutants will be leaving everything on the field in their final encounter of the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship.

The Players: Oloataua Tofaeono was a dangerous force up front against Cook Islands, outpacing the backline to long balls and creating several attacking combinations with captain Elcy Naolavoa. Tofaeono kept Cook Islands goalkeeper Dora Iripa on her toes for the entire game and was unfortunate not to find the net.

Coach Quote: “We’re a bit nervous but the girls have been improving from the first game up until now so I know there’s a lot we can give in this game.”

American Samoa: 1. Maraea NAUTU (GK), 2. Maricar PARUNGO, 3. Nancy SATELE, 4. Jane FAUMUINA, 5. Princess FEGAUIA’I, 6. Aileen IEREMIA, 7. Mercy SEIU, 8. Diedra STEFFANY, 9. Blanche HERRERA, 10. Elcy NAOLAVOA, 11. Oloataua TOFAEONO, 12. Agnes SIAOSI, 13. Lima MAUGA, 14. Jodynn LIU-KUEY, 15. Faafeu AMISONE, 16. Olyann TA’ASE, 17. Jessica SATELE, 18. Mykaela PAOLO, 19. Lourdes AFOA, 23. Zena FOMA’I (GK)

Coach: Ruth TUATO’O (ASA)

Fiji vs. Cook Islands
J.S. Blatter Football Complex
Apia, Samoa
Friday 11 August
Kick-off: 17h00
#OFCU16W #FIJCOK

Match Officials
Referee: Rani PERRY (TAH)
Assistant Referee 1: Vaihina TEURA (TAH)
Assistant Referee 2: Malaetala SALANOA (SAM)
Fourth Official: Ben AUKWAI (SOL)

Fiji

Vital Statistics: Fiji currently sit on four points, two behind Cook Islands. A win against the Group B front-runners will place Fiji at the top of the group and secure their place in the semi-final. A loss against Cook Islands could cause trouble for Fiji if Tonga win the earlier match of the day, bringing semi-final qualification down to goal differential.

The Players: Captain Lusiana Lagilevu and Dilaisana Drodrolagi worked well together in the middle of the park in Fiji’s last match, creating several opportunities for Viniana Buke up front and testing Tonga goalkeeper Kalolaine Topui with several long-range attempts throughout the 90 minutes. The two persevered until the final whistle and kept Fiji’s intensity high as players tired.

Coach Quote:  “We’ll try to work our way through the Cook Islands challenge and try to conquer whatever they throw at us. They are a well-formed team but we’ll try to come with speed on Friday.”

Fiji: 1. Seru VASUITOGA (GK), 2. Avisaki TORO, 3. Viniana BUKE, 4. Sovaia RANADI, 5. Eseta SINUKULA, 6. Amelia CEVARIKI, 7. Tabua LIKUMOTOVAI, 8. Kelera RADINICALIA, 9. Losana BAINIVALU, 10. Fatima TABUANITOGA, 11. Harina ERASITO, 12. Titilia WAQABACA, 13. Emily ROKOCIRI, 14. Alisi QEREQERETABUA, 15. Luisiana LAGILEVU, 16. Dilaisana DRODROLAGI, 17. Vani BAINIVALU, 18. Ulita ALFRED, 19. Filomena RACEA (GK), 20. Raijel PASIRIO (GK)

Coach: Marika RODU (FIJ)

Cook Islands

Vital Statistics: Cook Islands have secured their place in the semi-final but their result against Fiji will determine their placing in the group – and the Group A opponent they will face in the semi-final. If they secure another win, they will face the second place team from Group A. If they lose, they will have to face Group A’s winner.

The Players: Teretia Teinaki, Esther Potoru, Tia Tuivaga and Merran Munro were a solid defensive wall for Cook Islands in their win against American Samoa. Although Cook Islands’ attack dropped intensity after they had secured a comfortable lead, the back four continued to play with composure and intensity until the final whistle. The four collaborate and communicate well and move as a team to offer cover when challenged by a strong attacker.

Coach Quote:  “Fiji isn’t a side that we can underestimate at all. They may have drawn against Tonga and we beat Tonga but that doesn’t tell us anything because they could come back and bring their A-game.

“They’re fast – definitely – and they’ve got a lot of tall girls. They’re physical as well so that’s something we have to compete against as well.”

Cook Islands: 1. Dora IRIPA (GK), 2. Lyric DAVISON, 3. Teretia TEINAKI, 4. Ngame TARINGA, 5. Tia TUIVAGA, 6. Esther POTORU, 7. Piri MURARE, 8. Tehinnah TATUAVA, 9. Viorangi KITE, 10. Keana MAAKA, 11. Merran MUNRO, 12. Nathalia VIKING, 13. Tepaeru NGAROI, 14. Eitiare TANGIRERE, 15. Alma NGAMETUA, 16. Ngarangi MAPU

Coach: Theresa TATUAVA (COK)

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