Defending champions New Zealand sent an ominous warning to the rest of the competition at the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship with an awe-inspiring display to brush aside Samoa, while Tahiti produced a thoroughly professional and clinical performance to cruise past American Samoa in the opening Group B matches at the CIFA Academy in Rarotonga.
New Zealand 30 – 0 Samoa
Nobody was doubting the young New Zealand side’s talent and credentials going into the tournament, however it’s hard to imagine many could foresee the relentless way they went about their work, from the outset till the final whistle, as they dismantled their opponent.
As soon as taking the lead, with just a few seconds on the clock courtesy of Kelli Brown, the New Zealanders have settled into their own rhythm to impose their will on Samoa.
The impressive Brown, who scored her sides opening four goals inside 20 minutes, has eventually ended up with an incredible eleven goals to her name, with another six players getting on the scoresheet to share the spoils.
It will take some effort to catch Brown for the golden boot after just two match days, despite both Arabella Maynard and Maggie Jenkins showed prolific form in front of goal with five-goal hauls, while Gabi Rennie and Rene Wasi have completed a hat-trick each.
The New Zealand scoresheet was rounded up with Amelia Abbott’s double and Grace Wisnewski’s lone contribution.
As clinical and professional New Zealand’s display was, Samoa didn’t help their own cause by their lack of discipline which resulted in a red card to Paepae Tuitama when the scores were 9-0 in the 42nd minute.
Playing the majority of the match with ten players made an already uphill struggle even more daunting for the Samoans, which Gemma Lewis’ troops have ruthlessly exploited.
Based on that performance, New Zealand’s quest for a seventh consecutive OFC crown, and a spot in next year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup remains firmly on track, to the delight of their coach.
“I was really impressed with them. In the first game we wanted to go out and we wanted to be relentless going forward and focus on our performance and the girls did really well in that, they didn’t let up, they kept going and it was great to see that,” enthused Lewis.
“For us it was about our performance, we wanted to make sure we are getting something out of the game and for the first game we wanted to put a stamp on it from the start,” added the New Zealand coach.
Despite the hugely disappointing outcome, Samoa coach Lanuola Mulipola insists her players have nothing to feel ashamed about.
I’m still proud of my girls. I know New Zealand is a really tough team but throughout the game my girls didn’t stop,” she said.
“They were working together as a team and getting used to each other and kept working as a team.
“We have to keep positive, it’s very important for the next game and also for our last game we have here,” the Samoa coach insisted.
Tahiti 7-0 American Samoa
In the second Group B match of the day Tahiti showed their attacking intent during the early exchanges by pressing high and testing American Samoa keeper Destiny Kapisi through the lively attacking combination of Babou Tepea and Tahia Tamarii.
They didn’t have to wait long to be rewarded with Tamirii tapping in from close range in the 11th minute to open the scoring.
Tetia Mose smashed home from inside the box four minutes later before Tamirii grabbed her second to open up a three goal cushion only seven minutes later.
Soon after Tepea and Mose combined beautifully, at the end of which Tepea drove the ball into the roof of the net for the goal of the match.
Tamirii completed her hat-trick before adding another with a fantastic long-range strike to make it 6-0 with just 31 minutes on the clock.
However, with another huge score on the cards, American Samoa rallied to stem the flow and keep the seemingly rampant Tahitians at bay for the remainder of the first half, largely thanks to a number of crucial saves by Kapisi.
The break seemed to have a positive effect on the American Samoans who looked to be far more settled and organised throughout the second period.
Apart from a lapse of concentration to give away a penalty for a handball inside the box, which was clinically converted by Tepea in the 72nd minute, the American Samoans have matched Tahiti in most departments throughout the second half giving themselves plenty of encouragement for the rest of the tournament.
Tahiti coach Stephanie Spielmann was also pleased with her side’s professional performance, and especially with the way her team took control during the early stages of the match.
“We were very focused on a good start. I’m very proud of the girls because we worked very hard on our start, so I’m happy with that,” she explained.
In the second half we calmed down and took control of the game. We were very focused on some of the technical side of our game, for instance corner kicks.
We changed a few things in the second half and sometimes the girls were as focused and we lost the ball, but what I really appreciate that every time they lost the ball they worked really hard to get it back, Spielmann added.
Meanwhile her American Samoa counterpart Stephen Kettle admitted his players must learn from their nervous start.
“We talked about for the last three weeks that they had to come out confident and calm, but you could see in the first 15, 20 minutes the girls were feeling the excitement and the nervousness and the game kind of got away from us early on,” he explained.
“You could see as they were running around the field their nerves get the better of them so once they settled down it was much better.
“The second half is exactly the way we are trying to play, the style and confidence, to connect with passes to build up out of the back, and other than the handball in the box the girls were playing really well in the second half,” insisted Kettle.