Camille Andre’s stunning stoppage-time penalty save secured Tahiti a 0-0 draw with Vanuatu and ensured their place in the quarter-finals of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022, while Vanuatu must now wait to discover their status, as Tonga advance from Group A.
Today marks exactly one year until the start of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ and both teams knew they needed a positive result to ensure they stayed in the qualification running.
That pressure resulted in an exciting back-and-forth fixture at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva, Fiji, with both teams enjoying spells of pressure and domination.
Tahiti could have taken an early lead, striker Tahia Tamarii failing to reach Hinavainui Malfatti’s cross, but the bulk of the early chances fell to Vanuatu.
Brenda Anis could only place her close-range effort wide after Tahiti failed to clear Annie Rose Gere’s free-kick delivery. Jane Alatoa highlighted her threat next but Tahiti goalkeeper Andre reacted fast to save a one-v-one attempt.
Tahiti also had their moments in a chaotic opening period, with wingers Malfatti and Vahuariki Tufaunui in particular causing Vanuatu’s defence problems.
The two soon linked up for Tahiti’s first shot on goal, with Malfatti using her quick feet to evade her marker before firing a left-foot drive just wide of the far-post.
Pauline Willie then came close to scoring the opener for Vanuatu on two occasions, first heading wide after beating Andre to a long ball before being denied by a last-ditch tackle from Babou Tepea.
On the brink of half-time, Rita Solomon headed wide from close range and Tahiti nearly made her pay shortly after the restart.
Once again it was Malfatti who had Vanuatu on the back-foot. Racing clear after breaking the offside trap her left-foot effort beat Vanissa Wilson in the Vanuatu goal but bounced wide off the post, much to her own annoyance.
The game became a scrappy affair as both teams began to tire but Vanuatu were awarded a lifeline in the final minute of the game when Fijian referee Torika Delai adjudged Raihei Tetauru’s push on Diana Sine to be worthy of a penalty.
Vanuatu substitute Liyo Eramol’s stepped up to take the spot-kick but Andre sprawled to her right-hand side to produce a stunning save and secure Tahiti’s place in the final eight.
Tahiti will now face the runners-up in Group C on July 24 while the result also means Tonga have qualified from Group A, ahead of Vanuatu as one of the highest-ranked third place teams on fair play points.
Vanuatu must now wait for the outcome of the New Caledonia v Solomon Islands game in Group C this evening to discover their own fate.
Tahiti head coach Stéphanie Spielmann:
“I just have to keep to the positive things which is that we are in the quarter-finals. We have done a hard game. We expected to score goals because I think we had the opportunity but Vanuatu are a good opponent.
“We are extremely happy to be in the quarter-final and we are now focused on the next game.”
Vanuatu head coach Jean Robert Yelou:
“For me I think for the whole game nothing was wrong. The game was what we planned for. We got one penalty but we did not get the goal so we come in with the draw.
“I thought that in the first-half we should be leading the game already but hard luck, we did not score the goals, that is how football is.”