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Stage is set for semi-final showdowns

CIFA Academy, Cook Islands (Phototek)

We are down to the last four teams as the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship reaches its business end at Rarotonga’s picturesque CIFA Academy.

Fighting for their place in the tournament’s title decider, the stakes couldn’t be higher for francophone rivals Tahiti and New Caledonia in the day’s opening encounter, before Vanuatu and reigning champions New Zealand face each other for the second final’s spot on offer.

In their first ever appearance in the U-19 age group, the Tahitians showed composure and maturity to safely negotiate their passage to the knock-out stage of the competition as Group B runners-up, following comprehensive victories over American Samoa and Samoa and a well contested defeat to hot favourites New Zealand.

Led upfront by their prolific attacking duo of Babou Tepea and Tahia Tamarii, who have shared 14 of Tahiti’s 17 goals between them, Stéphanie Spielmann’s  side displayed plenty of potential moving forward, while playing in a holding midfielder role captain Kiani Wong offered assurance and calmness both in the middle of the park as well as at the back.

Encouraged by their performances so far in the competition, the French Polynesians can’t wait for their next challenge against one of their greatest rivals.

“We are very happy to play against New Caledonia because they are our best friends, and at the same time our best adversaries,” she said.

“I’m also very happy, first of all because their coach is a woman coach, and there are a lot of women on their staff, that’s a very good thing for women’s football in Oceania.

“We know some of their players, like Jackie Pahoa for example and their captain we saw, they are good players, I think New Caledonia is a good team and I hope we offer the public a good game in the semi-final,” added Spielmann.

New Caledonia advanced to the semis by finishing on top of Group C that also included Papua New Guinea and Tonga.

With only three teams in their group Les Cagous have only played two matches, one less than the other three teams in the final four, and have not been involved in a competitive game in the past week.

Coralie Bretegnier’s team kicked off their campaign in a convincing fashion to brush aside Papua New Guinea 8-0 in their opener, before a much sterner test by Tonga which ended in a 4-2 victory for the French speaking side.

Since a number of their players, including Jennifer Neporo, Jackie Poha, Cassidy Cawa and Joana Boula are all more than capable of scoring, the New Caledonians could pose a considerable threat to the Tahitian defence in front of goal.

Coach Coralie Bretegnier is also happy with the extra time her squad had to prepare for the knock-out stage.

“I think that’s a positive thing for our team because we had more time for training and recovery,” she insisted.

Nevertheless the New Caledonia coach is expecting a tough examination from their rivals.

“Tahiti are a great team and it’s going to be an important match, we have to maintain all our concentration and physical fitness if we want to beat them and reach the final at the end,” said Bretegnier.

Vanuatu are probably the most improved side left in the tournament, after putting their heart-rending, injury time defeat to the Cook Islands behind them to overcome both the Solomon Islands and Fiji and clinch top spot at the conclusion of a closely contested Group A.

Coach  Jean Robert Yelou will be especially pleased with his side’s defensive record, following two clean sheets to make amends for that 1-nil loss to the hosts.

Meanwhile, on the back of her double against the Solomon Islands and another lively display against Fiji, pacey winger Bindy Erikan has emerged as the main attacking outlet for the Melanesians.

However, the Vanuatu coach is under no illusion about the challenge New Zealand will pose for his players.

“We know how New Zealand play, and for me playing against New Zealand is not new. They are the better team and it’s a huge job for us to play against them,” he explained.

“We have to stay focussed, we’ll have to concentrate for the whole 90 minutes. When you play a team like New Zealand, there is no room for mistake, if you make one mistake you will be punished for that,” the Vanuatu coach added.

Despite the huge challenge ahead of his players, Yelou is adamant his team is excited by the prospect of facing the region’s top side.

“My team is aiming high, doesn’t matter who we face we always aim high, if we stop believing in ourselves we can’t compete so I think it will be a good game against New Zealand,” he said.

After scoring 47 goals without conceding in their previous three outings, New Zealand remain on track in their quest for a seventh consecutive regional title.

Blessed with attacking talent, including Kelli Brown, who despite being rested for the Kiwis’ third match against American Samoa still leads the race for the Golden Boot with a remarkable tally of 15 goals.

Based on their phenomenal record both in front of goal and at the back, the New Zealanders will go into their semi-final clash against Vanuatu as overwhelming favourites.

Coach Gemma Lewis however, refuses to underestimate her side’s next opponents.

“They’ve got some really good players as we’ve seen them playing across this tournament so far,” she said.

“A slightly smaller squad but some of their players individually are very good so we’re not taking them lightly, we know it’s going to be a tough challenge, they are very physical but they’re also very skilful so I think it’s going to be a good match up,” insisted the New Zealand coach.

Tahiti  vs. New Caledonia
Monday 9 September  (Tuesday 10 August NZ time)
CIFA Academy
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
KO: 12:30

Click on link for the live stream


Match Officials
Referee: Nadia BROWNING (NZL)
Assistant Referee 1:Heloise SIMONS (NZL)
Assistant Referee 2:Lata KAUMATULE (TGA)
Fourth Official: Tapaita LELENGA (TGA)

TAHITI – 1. Corail HARRY (GK), 2. Temenava FOURNIER, 4. Babou TEPEA, 5. Julienne NAOMI, 6. Lokelani HAUATA, 7. Kohai MA, 8. Merehau IOTUA, 9. Tetia MOSE, 10. Tiare TEKAKIOTERAGI, 11. Tahia TAMARII, 12. Vahuariki TUFAUNUI, 13. Ahuura CHIN, 14. Hana KIMITETE, 15. Mihitua TIHONI, 17. Kiani WONG, Christiane TETAVAHI, 19. Mitiura PAINT-KOUI,  20. Hereura CHU (GK)
Head Coach: Stéphanie SPIELMANN (Tahiti)

NEW CALEDONIA – 1. Brigitte WADRA (GK), 2. Jaelle SINYEUE, 3. Oceane ZASINA, 4. Edsy MATAO, 5. Melissa IEKAWE, 6. Justine MALAXAN, 7. Jackie PAHOA, 8. Chloe UFEPI, 9. Jennifer NEPORO, 10. Lucinda KOINDREDI, 11. Joana BOULA, 12. Ashley GELIMA, 13. Marthe KATRAWA, 14. Mauranne MEINDU, 15. Shamany NAAOUTCHOUE, 16. Clarisse WAHNAPO (GK), 17. Salomee POMA, 18. Laetitia LEME, 19. Cassidy CAWA
Head Coach: Coralie BRETEGNIER (New Caledonia)

Vanuatu vs. New Zealand

Monday 9 September  (Tuesday 10 August NZ time)
CIFA Academy
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
KO: 16:00

Click on link for the live stream


Match Officials
Referee:Rani PERRY (TAH)

Assistant Referee 1: Natalia LUMUKANA (SOL)
Assistant Referee 2:Vaihina TEURA (TAH)
Fourth Official: Shama MAEMAE (SOL)

VANUATU – 1. Karine MANVOI GK 2. Melanie TIMATUA, 7. Rita SOLOMON, 8. Bindy ERIKAN, 9. Cynthia NGWELE, 10.  Annie GERE, 11. Celestine KALOPONG, 12. Nettie KALSAU, 13 Daina SINE, 14. Evana TINWAKO, 15. Noeline ERIKAN, 17. Limas ERIKAN, 20. Carlie TARI 21. Rose SIMON GK
Head Coach: Jean Robert YELOU (Vanuatu)

NEW ZEALAND – 1. Nadia OLLA (GK), 2. Mackenzie BARRY, 3. Hannah MACKAY-WRIGHT, 4. Aneka MITTENDORFF, 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER, 6. Rose MORTON, 7. Gabi RENNIE, 8. Amelia Anne ABBOTT, 9. Maggie JENKINS, 10. Grace WISNEWSKI, 11. Kelli BROWN, 12. Alisha PERRY(GK), 13. Charlotte WILFORD CARROLL, 14. Arabella MAYNARD, 15. Dani WARD, 16. Lara WALL, 17. Tahlia HERMAN-WATT, 18. Rene WASI, 19. Ava COLLINS
Head Coach: Gemma LEWIS (Wales)



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