OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022

Papua New Guinea celebrate, while Fiji are crestfallen.. OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022 Final, Papua New Guinea v Fiji, HFC Bank Stadium, Suva, Fiji, Saturday 30 July 2022. Photo: Jackie Tran Van / www.phototek.nz

The 12th edition of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup was held in 2022 and was hosted in Suva, Fiji, with all matches played at ANZ Stadium. It also doubled as OFC qualifying for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, and was contested by nine nations for the first time. With New Zealand already qualifying for the World Cup as co-hosts, they opted not to defend their OFC Women’s Nations Cup and did not participate.

The tournament also underwent another format change with three groups of three and the top two in each group progressing to the quarter-finals, as well as the two best third-placed teams. Samoa, the Cook Islands, and Tonga were put together in Group A, whilst Papua New Guinea was joined by Tahiti and Vanuatu in Group B, and hosts Fiji were drawn alongside the Solomon Islands and New Caledonia in Group C. Samoa took charge of Group A on the tournament’s opening day, with goals from Monique Fischer and Jayda Stewart securing a 2-0 victory over Tonga. They then wrapped up top spot with a tight 1-0 win over the Cook Islands, again requiring a Jayda Stewart goal. A draw between the Cook Islands and Tonga in the other group game meant the former qualified in second by virtue of a superior goal difference, whilst Tonga ended up progressing as one of the best third-placed sides. Papua New Guinea also claimed maximum points to top Group B, defeating Vanuatu 3-1 in their opening match, before edging Tahiti 2-1.

Jayda Stewart interacts with her captain Monique Fischer. OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022, Samoa v New Caledonia, HFC Bank Stadium, Suva, Fiji, Saturday 23 July 2022. Photo: Jackie Tran Van / www.phototek.nz

The other group match between Vanuatu and Tahiti finished scoreless, so Tahiti qualified for the quarter-finals thanks to a superior goal difference. Vanuatu missed out on one of the best third-place spots and were the only nation to exit at the group stage. Group C was the most competitive of the three pools, with 2018 runners-up and hosts Fiji held to a 1-1 draw by the Solomon Islands in the opening game. They came back to pick up a 3-1 win over New Caledonia in their second match though, taking top spot as the Solomon Islands and New Caledonia played out a 2-2 draw in the final group fixture. The Solomon Islands progressed in second, whilst New Caledonia joined them in the quarter-finals as one of the best third-placed sides. A hat-trick from Monique Fischer propelled Samoa into the final four after a 4-2 victory over New Caledonia in the first quarter-final. Elsewhere Papua New Guinea were given a huge scare by Tonga, requiring a penalty shoot-out after a dramatic 3-3 draw to progress.

Hosts Fiji were too good for the Cook Islands with a 2-0 win in the third quarter-final, whilst the Solomon Islands were the final nation to qualify for the semi-finals with a tight 1-0 victory over Tahiti. Papua New Guinea upped their game in the semi-finals, brushing aside Samoa 3-0 with two second-half strikes from Meagan Gunemba. That put them through to the final, where hosts Fiji would await after coming from behind to beat the Solomon Islands 3-1 in the second semi-final. Two goals from Cema Nasau set them on their way, as Fiji progressed to their second consecutive OFC Women’s Nations Cup final.

Alice Wenessia celebrates a New Caledonia goal with her teammates. OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022, Samoa v New Caledonia, HFC Bank Stadium, Suva, Fiji, Saturday 23 July 2022. Photo: Jackie Tran Van / www.phototek.nz

Having finished runners-up three times previously, Papua New Guinea finally claimed their first OFC Women’s Nations Cup title with a tough 2-1 victory over Fiji at ANZ Stadium in Suva. They jumped into a two-goal lead inside the first half hour with strikes from Meagen Gunemba and Ramona Padio, before holding on in the face of a strong Fijian crowd to become just the fourth side to lift aloft the trophy.

Meagen Gunemba is overwhelmed. OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022 Final, Papua New Guinea v Fiji, HFC Bank Stadium, Suva, Fiji, Saturday 30 July 2022. Photo: Jackie Tran Van / www.phototek.nz

Victory also meant Papua New Guinea advanced to the inter-confederation play-offs to qualify for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Earlier the Solomon Islands beat Samoa in a penalty shootout after finishing 1-1 to claim bronze in the third place play-off. Three players finished atop the goal-scoring standings, with Papua New Guinea’s Meagen Gunemba and Ramona Padio finishing on five goals alongside Samoa’s Jayda Stewart. Fiji’s Cema Nasau picked up the golden ball, whilst Tahiti’s Camila Andre received the golden glove, and Samoa were awarded the fair play award.