(Photo Credit OFC Media via Christophe Fotozz – Tonga coach Lafaele Moala)

The OFC U-16 Women’s Championship kicks off at Stade Pater in Papeete later today when the Solomon Islands take on Tonga in the opening Group B fixture, followed by the hosts against New Caledonia.The Solomon Islands side arrived on Saturday night and have acclimatised but the Tongan side endured an arduous trip from Nuku’alofa via Auckland in which their plane was delayed 12 hours and they only arrived on Monday afternoon.

“We are very excited; this is my second time in Tahiti and for the rest of the team it is their first time here. The atmosphere and environment is French speaking, and it is part of the learning process.” Coach Lafaele Moala said.

The recent FIFA Women’s World Cup held in New Zealand and Australia has proven inspirational for the Tonga players.

“ Yeah, I think the World Cup inspired most of the girls in U-16 and U-19 because football is maybe the number three sport in Tonga and I think the World Cup, most of the girls they are looking forward representing Tonga one day at the World Cup.” Moala said.

Moala has realistic expectations for his players at the tournament.

“They just need to do their best and enjoy the game and show that they can play football.”

For Solomon Islands defender Primrose Maetoloa it’s her second taste of international competition having played for the Solomon Islands at the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship in Fiji in June and July.

“It was good playing with the under 19 Girls very nice and the Fiji Island is very good. I am looking forward to playing with all these girls and winning the Championship and going to the U-17 World Cup.” A confident Maetoloa beamed.

For that to be a chance, the Solomon Islands will have to finish among the top two teams in Group A.

“The teams we play will be very tough. We must try our best defence and score a lot of goals.”

The second match today features the two French speaking teams of New Caledonia against hosts Tahiti kicking off at 7pm local time. (5pmNZT) Tahiti coach Xavier Samin expressed his confidence earlier this week of a strong showing in the tournament playing on home soil.