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Intriguing opening Match Day approaching in Rarotonga

CIFA Academy, Rarotonga, Cook Islands, (Phototek)

Cook Island’s picturesque CIFA Academy provides a fitting stage to the highly anticipated OFC U-19 Women’s Championship 2019, that will kick off on Friday morning (local time) with the first of three matches on the opening day.

For the first time in OFC history all eleven member associations are set to compete for regional supremacy and a place in next year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.

Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia will get the competition underway in Group C, before the attention turns to Group A and Solomon Island’s clash with Fiji followed by the final game on the opening match day between Vanuatu and hosts Cook Islands.

With women’s football on a high in Papua New Guinea, Rachel Wadunah’s young team will be keen to add a new regional title to the country’s recent triumph at 2019 Pacific Games Women’s Tournament.

The Melanesians arrived in the Cook Islands following a grueling trip but the coach is adamant her players will be fit and ready for Friday morning’s kick-off.

“It’s been a long journey to get here, three hours from Port Moresby to Brisbane, and then from Brisbane to Auckland where we had to stay at the airport for five hours before we boarded our plane to Rarotonga, but my girls are ready for the game against New Caledonia. They said they are here to make sure we win that game,” Wadunah insisted.

Despite the team’s limited time together the coach is happy with her side’s preparations.

“We’ve had only one week together as a team, it is a very short time, but I told the girls we have to make sure we bond together, we get to understand each other and they did, they very well did.

“For most of them this is their first time out, except two girls Asaiso (Gossie) and Shalom (Waida) as they were with the girls at the Pacific Games, the rest of them new out here,” the PNG coach added.

Wadunah admits New Caledonia are posing a somewhat unknown challenge, but she is confident her players will be able to make all the necessary adjustments should they need to rise against any surprise challenge and threat.

“I’m doing my best to get to know them searching the web to find out about them, but I’m confident once I watch the first half and how they go when we play them,  I can come up with a strategy to battle them in the second half,” she explained.

Meanwhile New Caledonia, the host of the 2018 OFC Women’s Nations Cup is another Pacific country heavily focused on the development of women’s football.

Following a runners-up placing at the 2017 OFC U-16 Women’s Championship, a 4th placed finish at the 2017 OFC U-19 Women’s Championship and another 4th placing at the Nations Cup on home soil, Les Cagous have only managed one win from four matches during July’s Pacific Games in Samoa.

 Despite the disappointing tournament in Apia, New Caledonia coach Coralie Bretegnier says her U-19 side is well prepared to reinstate the francophone nation’s standing as one of Oceania’s leading women’s teams.

 “We have been working hard and we started to prepare our team three months ago, focusing both in terms of physical and tactical aspects of our training,” she said.

Facing one of the powerhouses of Pacific football, the New Caledonia coach is under no illusion about the challenge ahead in their opener.

“We know that PNG are a very good team, so we’ve been working hard ahead of this match and we want to do our best in this game. It will be a very difficult challenge but I’m confident we are ready for the opening game,” insisted  Breitegner.

Solomon Islands will face Group A rivals Fiji in the second match of the opening day at the CIFA Academy.

Despite not entering a team in the 2017 OFC U-16 and U-19 Championships and the 2018 OFC Nations Cup, Solomon Island’s participation in the 2019 Pacific Games Women’s Tournament is a positive sign ahead of their upcoming campaign in the Cook Islands.

And coach Patrick Miniti says his players are excited ahead of the challenge.

“It’s the first experience for many girls outside of their country but after two months of training we have come along way,” he said.

“I know a lot of teams have been preparing well and we wanted to the same so I hope what we have done will help us. We are still learning, and we hope we can do well in the tournament,” added the Solomon Islands coach.

Miniti is also looking forward to a historic occasion against Fiji in their opener.

“I know it’s going to be an interesting match because we’ve never played them before,” he explained.

“Fiji is always a very good team, they can run, they can kick they have some very tall girls and I know they will be well prepared for the tournament,” Miniti said.

The Fijian have an impressive pedigree in women’s football including a silver medal at the 2017 OFC U-19 Women’s Championship, another runners-up finish at last year’s Women’s Nations Cup before a bronze medal at the 2019 Pacific Games.

Despite Fiji’s proud record, U-19 coach Sunil Kumar refuses to take any of his side’s opponents for granted.

“Women’s football is improving in Fiji, but there is development and improvement across the entire Pacific,” he insisted.

Ahead of Fiji’s first outing against Solomon Islands, Kumar is pleased with the way his team has been working together.

“We’ve only gathered the team a few weeks back because of their school commitments and some of the players were in the senior team, but they have gelled quite well, the combinations started to work, so we are getting ready for our first game against the Solomons,” he said.

“We have a few experienced players with us, five of the players were part of the team at the Pacific Games, including Koleta Likuculacula and goalkeeper Maria Parr, and we will look to them to take leadership roles.

In the final match of the day Vanuatu will face local favourites Cook Islands.

Vanutau, the last team to arrive on Rarotonga on the eve of the opening Match Day will need to get quickly used to the local conditions.

Similarly to the Solomon Islands, July’s Pacific Games is the only international tournament that can provide us with a comparison between Vanutau and the other women’s teams in the Pacific.

With three players involved from the U-19 side, Vanuatu finished the tournament in Apiai at the bottom of group B, but with a credible scoreless draw against Tahiti in their final match.

However, as part of their preparations for the OFC U-19 Championships, Jean Robert Yelou’s U-19 team has suffered a sobering 12-0 defeat to U-19 Australia, which prompted the Vanuatu coach to give a frank assessment of his side’s chances.

“Unfortunately the game reflected accurately where Vanuatu women’s football is at the moment. There is no point denying, we played to our best ability,” lamented the coach.

Despite the disappointing preparations, Yelou has also offered some positives for the women’s game moving forward.

“Even after the 12-0 loss I feel happy and pleased that we have a start and I can see how we can change and move ahead,” he said.

Vanuatu captain Rita Solomon echoed her coaches sentiments.

“We don’t have a women’s league, we are inexperienced and we made a lot of mistakes, we pushed ourselves hard but we were slow in transition and lacked fitness, ” she admitted.

“We need to get better and the match against Australia was still a great experience, it helped us to learn and improve for the U-19 Championship,” said Solomon.

Meanwhile Cook Islands will carry the weight of local expectations, especially on the back of the national women’s team impressive third place finish at the recent Pacific games.

Despite the pressure of being the tournament host, coach Tuka Tisam is feeling relaxed ahead of his side’s opening match.

“Very good, we have been preparing for three or four months with the girls here and we have some girls arriving just a couple of days before the tournament, so we are putting the final touches on our preparations,” he said.

With a mix of local and overseas-based talent, including players with New Zealand, Australian as well as Netherlands experience, the hosts could be one of the teams to watch throughout the tournament.

However, Tisam is expecting a difficult challenge from all his side’s opponents.

“Vanuatu will be tough. All teams in our pool will be tough, so it won’t be easy to get out of the group. To win our group and go through the semifinals is everyone’s goal to do so we just have to take one game at a time and now focus on our first game,” explained the Cook Islands coach.

Additional Information

Papua New Guinea vs New Caledonia
Friday 30 August local (Saturday 31 August NZ)
CIFA Academy
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
KO: 10:00

Click on link  for the live stream


Match Officials
Referee: Nadia BROWNING (NZL)
Assistant Referee 1: Natalia LUMUKANA (SOL)
Assistant Referee 2: Joana OLOGA (SOL)
Fourth Official: Shama MAEMAE (SOL)

PAPUA NEW GUINEA :1. Benadette RUPI (GK), 2. Fidorah NAMUESH, 3. Norma KASIRAY, 4. Susan MANAS, 5. Nicole BEKIO, 6. Jerolyn GALA, 7. Abigail WAGOL, 8. Shalom WAIDA, 9. Asaiso GOSSIE, 10. Ruth GIADA, 11. Kenziro SAMSON, 12. Sylvia JANGIKO, 13. Jasmine VAGO, 14. Christie MANEU, 15. Dephney PARI, 16. Sagude ZALE, 17. Carol ALBERT, 18. Mareerose WADUNAH, 19. Joan UTTIE, 20. Olive NANGAN (GK)
Head Coach: Rachel WADUNAH (Papua New Guinea)

NEW CALEDONIA – 1. Brigitte WADRA (GK), 2. Jaelle SINYEUE, 3. Oceane ZASINA, 4. Edsy MATAO, 5. Melissa IEKAWE, 6. Justine MALAXAN, 7. Jackie PAHOA, 8. Chloe UFEPI, 9. Jennifer NEPORO, 10. Lucinda KOINDREDI, 11. Joana BOULA, 12. Ashley GELIMA, 13. Marthe KATRAWA, 14. Mauranne MEINDU, 15. Shamany NAAOUTCHOUE, 16. Clarisse WAHNAPO (GK), 17. Salomee POMA, 18. Laetitia LEME, 19. Cassidy CAWA
Head Coach: Coralie BRETEGNIER (New Caledonia)

Solomon Islands vs Fiji

Friday 30 August local (Saturday 31 August NZ)
CIFA Academy
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
KO: 13:00


Click on link for the live stream


Match Officials
Referee: Lindsey ROBINSON (ENG)
Assistant Referee 1: Heloise SIMONS (NZL)
Assistant Referee 2: John PAREANGA (COK)
Fourth Official: Anne TUAEFE (TGA)

SOL – 1. Serah ALPEFOLOCIA (GK), 2. Edith NARI, 3. Debra KALI, 4. Sandra WALE, 5. Magaret SAMANI, 6. Cecilia OMEARO, 7. Madeline ARUKAU, 8. Cathy FO’OSIMAE, 9. Dollin USUA, 10. Dealyn KALI, 11. Jojo LEDI, 12. Florence INCE (GK), 13. Indy RINGO, 14. Mavis WALE, 15. Rose ARATA, 16. Sharoly SAENI, 17. Rachel REX, 18. Alisha DONGA, 19. Mercy WATEOBEA, 20. Melissah MAREI
Head Coach: Patrick MINITI (Solomon Islands)

FIJ – 1. Maria PARR (GK), 2. Lusiana LAGILEVU, 3. Ledua SENISEA, 4. Amelia CEVARIKI, 5. Laniana QEREQERETABUA, 6. Vitalina NAIKORE, 7. Koleta LIKUCULACULA, 8. Aliza HUSSEIN, 9. Asenaca DIRANUVE, 10. Asilika GASAU, 11. Emily ROKOCIRI, 12. Louisa SIMMONS, 13. Kelera RADINICAL, 14. Adi Anasimeci VOLITIKORO, 15. Losana BAINIVALU, 16. Dilaisana DRODROLAGI, 17. Unaisi RALUMU, 18. Fulori SUKULU, 19. Viniana BUKE, 20. Seru VASUITOGA (GK)
Head Coach: Sunil KUMAR (Fiji)

Vanuatu vs Cook Islands

Friday 30 August local (Saturday 31 August NZ)
CIFA Academy
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
KO: 16:00

Click on link for the live stream


Match Officials
Referee: Rani PERRY (TAH)
Assistant Referee 1: Vaihina TEURA (TAH)
Assistant Referee 2: Tapaita LELENGA (TGA)
Fourth Official: Timothy NIU (SOL)

VANUATU – 1. Cloe TATE (GK), 2. Dannie WANEMUT, 3. Tiffany SOPE, 4. Limas ERICKAN, 5. Noeline ERICKAN, 6. Selena POIDA, 7. Rita SOLOMON, 8. Matilda KALKAU, 9. Bindy ERICKAN, 10.  Annie GERE, 11. Anais KALOPONG, 12. Cynthia NGWELE, 13. Suzanne NAWEN, 14. Melanie TIMATUA, 15. Emma WANEMUT, 16. Nettie KALSAU, 17. Vaina ALPHONSE, 18. Daina SINE, 19. Celestine KALOPPONG, 20. Amelia REDY (GK)
Head Coach: Jean Robert YELOU (Vanuatu)

COOK ISLANDS – 1. Daimzel RONGOKEA (GK), 2. Merran MUNRO, 3. Teretia TEINAKI, 4. Esther POTORU, 5. Tiamarama TUIVAGA, 6. Tehinnah TATUAVA, 7. Piri MURARE, 8. Jessica WARMINGTON, 9. Kura MOSE, 10. Ngametua TARINGA, 11. Moeroa HARMON, 12. Ngamata MOEKAA, 13. Tarita MAMANU, 14. Eitiare TANGIRERE, 15. Lyric DAVISON, 16. Keana MAAKA, 17. Tepaeru NGAROI, 18. Tineke DE JONG, 20. Alma NGAMETUA
Head Coach: Tuka TISAM (Cook Islands)



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