With a win and a loss each so far New Zealand and Papua New Guinea have one last chance to qualify for the OFC U-16 Championship semi-finals when they meet in their final Group A match tomorrow morning.
Meanwhile the tournament hosts Solomon Islands are aiming to take top spot in the group with a clean sweep of their opponents when they take on Vanuatu in the afternoon encounter.
Following their shock 5-0 loss to Solomon Islands, defending champions New Zealand are aiming to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and go out on Saturday and secure their place in the semi-finals.
Going down by such a large margin certainly wasn’t what coach Jose Figueira expected going into the game against Solomon Islands and he admitted it was a massive learning experience for both him and his charges.
“I think we’ll take a massive learning experience from this match and hopefully it will kick us on for the rest of the tournament,” he said.
Figueira said Solomon Islands were an impressive force to face but his team didn’t help themselves either with decision making and passing the first to fall by the wayside.
However, he is confident the squad will rebound and come back with a strong desire to get the result they need to progress to the semi-finals.
“I think we can expect something similar from Papua New Guinea,” Figueria said.
“They’ll be going into the game knowing they’ve got something to play for as well, and we have just got to make sure we get back to the drawing board, get back to what we are good at, review the game and learn from the mistakes – and there were quite a few of them.
“I’m sure the boys will be eager to bounce back and qualify out of the group for the semi-final.
Having bounced back from an opening defeat of their own against Solomon Islands, Anthony Pakakota’s side know to be weary of a wounded New Zealand.
However they too are keen to continue their positive form and make a bid for a place in the semi-finals alongside the hosts.
One of the key areas the coach worked on with his squad following the 5-0 defeat in their first match was building up the players’ confidence and having witnessed them knock five goals in against Vanuatu Pakakota believes that was achieved.
Looking organised and determined, Papua New Guinea ran rings around Vanuatu and could potentially have scored even more had goalkeeper Brendon Tankon been having an off day.
Pakakota said the side is ready for the challenge of taking on New Zealand and have been inspired by the efforts of the Solomon Islands.
“For sure we’re ready for New Zealand and we’re looking forward to it,” he said.
“The game against Vanuatu was a must win to give us a fighting chance and now we’re looking forward to the next one.
“New Zealand is a fast transitional team and we’ve prepared well for them.”
In the day’s second match, and the final one of the group, Solomon Islands will take on Vanuatu in a meeting of two sides whose fortunes in this competition could not have been more different.
Solomon Islands have been described as a powerful, attacking, relentless side by their opponents in this tournament so far, and they are unlikely to take it easy on Vanuatu as they aim for a clean sweep of Group A.
Coach Stanley Waita is adamant his side will continue to aim high now that New Zealand is behind them.
“As expected, Vanuatu always comes strong when they play us,” Waita said.
“But even so, I think I will try and play some of my reserves to give them a run before we head into the semi-finals.
“The fans have responded really well so far, we asked them to come out in numbers and they have so far which has been great for my boys and we hope to see them supporting us again on Saturday.”
Vanuatu haven’t had an easy run of things so far, conceding 13 goals across their two matches.
Against New Zealand in their opening match Vanuatu looked out of their depth. They struggled to hold their positions and found themselves ball chasing as they tried to close down their Kiwi counterparts.
The side knuckled down during the two rest days and came back a much improved unit for their match against Papua New Guinea.
The team were much more cohesive and were able to look threatening at times, however Papua New Guinea also improved between matches one and two and just had a greater desire to secure the victory.
Against Solomon Islands Vanuatu will need to be at their best, and coach Joel Rarua believes the best is yet to come from his charges.
“We’re here to compete in the competition,” he said.
“We think they will attack a lot in the final game and we just need to be at our best and ready to deal with that.”
New Zealand vs. Papua New Guinea
Saturday 15 September
Lawson Tama Stadium
Honiara, Solomon Islands
KO: 10:00 local (9h PNG / 10h VAN / 11h NZL)
Referee: Salesh CHAND (FIJ)
Assistant Referee 1: Avinesh NARAYAN (FIJ)
Assistant Referee 2: Johnny NIABO (SOL)
Fourth Official: Sione MAU (ASA)
New Zealand: 1. Alex PAULSEN (GK), 2. Max DRAKE, 3. Kris NAICKER, 4. Adam HILLIS, 5. Ryan VERNEY, 6. Campbell STRONG, 7. Marko STAMENI, 8. Jackson MANUEL, 9. Henry HAMILTON, 10. Joseph LEE, 11. Matt GARBETT, 12. Luca TAYLOR (GK), 13. Finn O’CONNOR, 14. Oskar VAN HATTUM, 15. Bradley WILSON, 16. Sean BRIGHT, 17. Nathan LOBO, 18. Benjamin OLD, 19. Hayden AISH, 20. Harry BARK
Coach: Josè FIGUEIRA (ENG)
Papua New Guinea: 1. Andrew BANIAU (GK), 2. Bulter HOSEA, 3. Russell PATROM, 4. Elijah POTUA, 5. Karlo KELLY, 6. Akaya WADUNAH, 7. Morientes SOW, 8. Joel ALEX, 9. Renagi ILA, 10. Lee-Navu FAUNT, 11. Morris DEVI, 12. Joseph EALEDONA, 13. Josiah DAIMOI, 14. Siegfried BESCHEL, 15. Townsville LAKAMANGA, 16. Emmanuel BAFENG, 17. Ben BONIEPE, 18. Bruce TIAMPO, 19. Ismael YOPYYOPY, 20. Jesse MANDARI (GK)
Coach: Anthony PAKATOTA (PNG)
Solomon Islands vs. Vanuatu
Saturday 15 September
Lawson Tama Stadium
KO: 15:00 local (14h PNG / 15h VAN / 16h NZL)
Referee: Sione LELENGA (TGA)
Assistant Referee 1: Folio MOEAKI (TGA)
Assistant Referee 2: Malaetala SALANOA (SAM)
Fourth Official: Norbert HAUATA (TAH)
Solomon Islands: 1. Davidson MALAM (GK), 2. Derick TAEBO, 3. Stanford FAKASORI, 4. Leon KOFANA, 5. Javin WAE, 6. Alford KANAHANIMAE, 7. Steward QUANAFIA, 8. Maxwell KEANA, 9. Charles MANI, 10. Raphael LE’AI, 11. Chris SATU, 12. Gideon SUTA, 13. Densley GESINI, 14. Richie KWAIMAMANI, 15. Philip ROPA, 16. Clayton MENAPA, 17. Hamilton PAO, 18. Fabio PAO, 19. Benbate LAMUPIO, 20. Pateson TONGAKA (GK)
Coach: Stanley WAITA (SOL)
Vanuatu: 1. Jimson SHEM (GK), 2. Manro TENENE, 3. Andrewson MALTERA, 4. Francois ATEL, 5. Brian MALAS, 6. Julian BANGA, 7. Thompson KALOPILELU, 8. Ronaldino KALKAU, 9. AJ ZACHARIE, 10. SEMICI KALTACK, 11. Pietro TAKARO, 12. Karl DINGLEY, 13. Austin HOLI, 14. Junior OKAO, 15. Bathis NALAU, 16. Kalpausi TAIWIA, 17. Alandro SAU, 18. Jemmy KALOROA, 19. Jonah ABEL, 20. Brendon TANKON (GK)
Coach: Joel RARUA (VAN)