After three weeks of fantastic football, our two finalists have been found for the OFC U-17 Championship 2023. Both New Caledonia and New Zealand advanced to the big decider with wins over Tahiti and Fiji respectively, with the latter two sides set to line up in the third place play-off at 4pm Saturday.
New Caledonia v New Zealand
Saturday, January 29
HFC Bank Stadium, Suva, Fiji | 7.00pm kick-off local time
This is the second time these sides have met in the tournament, after New Zealand beat New Caledonia 3-2 in their opening Group B match. It was an entertaining game, with the New Caledonians taking it to the New Zealanders early, then briefly holding the lead in the second half.
New Zealand had to rely on a hat trick from striker Luke Supyk, who is the tournament’s top goal scorer with six. Since then, New Zealand have comfortably beaten American Samoa in their other group game, then had a very tight match against Vanuatu in their quarterfinal. Supyk again stepped up for the young Kiwis in their 1-0 win, scoring a decisive penalty in the last minute.
They then overcame a spirited challenge from Fiji in the semifinal, pulling away after the scores were locked at a goal apiece at halftime. The 4-1 win not only sent them into the final, but also automatically qualified New Zealand for a place at the FIFA U-17 World Cup later this year in Peru.
New Zealand are the defending champions of the OFC U-17 title and are aiming to win their eighth tournament in a row.
WATCH: interview with Luke Supyk
Meanwhile, New Caledonia’s victory in a tense shootout over Tahiti saw them book their tickets to Peru as well. After the game finished 1-1 at the end of regular time, spot kicks were ordered, with New Caledonia holding their nerve to win it 3-2 and spark wild celebrations.
The win was the result of an aggressive and fast game plan, with their midfield spending plenty of time on the ball and pressing hard.
New Caledonia also had a big win over American Samoa in Group B, then swept past Samoa 4-0 in their quarterfinal. Their best finish in an OFC U-17 tournament have been runners-up three times, however they have only contested one final due to the changing of the format from a round robin. In 2017 they lost the final to New Zealand 7-0.
WATCH: interview with Anthony Levy