Tournament debutants Tahiti and six-time defending champions New Zealand have joined New Caledonia and Vanuatu in the final four of the OFC U-19 Women’s Championships by dominating their opponents on the sixth and final match day of the group stages at Rarotonga’s CIFA Academy.
Tahiti scored five goals in each half, brushing aside Samoa to finish as Group B runners-up behind the New Zealanders who have again displayed their quality with a 12-0 victory over American Samoa.
Samoa 0-10 Tahiti
On the back of their comprehensive win over American Samoa and a well contested defeat to hot favourites New Zealand, the Tahitians had every reason to be confident ahead of their meeting with Group B cellar dwellers Samoa.
And it didn’t take long for Stéphanie Spielmann’s side to underline their favouritism with Vahuariki Tufaunui slotting home after being released by her captain Kiani Wong’s inch-perfect pass in the 10th minute.
Encouraged by their start, the Tahitians piled on the pressure only to be denied by Alana Tualaulelei, who produced a string of brilliant saves to keep her side in the match.
However, Samoa’s resistance was broken by two close range headers from Tahia Tamarii and Babou Tepea to give Tahiti a three goal cushion in the 22nd minute.
Tualaulelei kept the scores respectable with saves after saves to limit the damage, while at the other end Zoe Ruby couldn’t connect cleanly in front of goal to allow Tahiti keeper Corail Harry to tidy up.
Soon after Samoa’s chance went begging, Tepea grabbed her second of the match to make it 4-nil, before she turned provider to set up Tamarii for her brace in the 42nd minute.
Tepea completed her hat-trick just five minutes into the second half, before adding two more, stretching Tahiti’s lead to 8 unanswered goals.
In the meantime, Tualaulelei came up with great stops, blocks and saves to frustrate the Tahitians.
However, not even the in-form Samoa keeper could deny Tetia Mose in the first minute of injury time before Tepea took her personal tally to six goals by converting from the penalty spot with the last kick of the match.
Stéphanie Spielmann was delighted by both her sides performance and progression to the semis.
“10- nil, it’s a good score and we didn’t let Samoa score against us. “We are very happy to be in the semi-finals, it’s historic for us, we are happy,’ she said after the match.
“The girls were very focused, and I want them to celebrate, they deserve it, but my staff and I are already concentrating on our next game,” the Tahiti coach added.
Despite bowing out of the tournament with three losses, Samoa coach Lanuola Mulipola insists her players will leave the Cook Islands with their heads held high.
“My girls gave it all and they did their best they can. And this tournament has been great, not only for the experience for the players but for management as well, especially for myself, as this is my first international competition,” she explained.
“It’s been a privilege to be a part of it and we have valuable experience with us to take back to our homeland,” the Samoa coach added.
American Samoa 0-12 New Zealand
Following two dominant performances by New Zealand, coach Gemma Lewis made wholesale changes to her starting line-up to give an opportunity and experience to some of the players in her wider squad to take on American Samoa.
Her decision was well justified as the Kiwis carried on business as usual to end a group stages with three wins, a remarkable 47 goals scored and none conceded.
Despite some of her key players, including golden boot frontrunner Kelli Brown rested, the newcomers slotted into the side seamlessly to take control from the outset.
Relishing her inclusion in the starting line-up, Ava Collins made an immediate impact to open the scoring with three minutes on the clock, before going on to complete a first half hat-trick.
Gabi Rennie, Rene Wasi and Tahlia Herman-Watt were also on target for New Zealand in the first period to put the result beyond any doubt before the break.
Rennie, who was handed the captain’s armband for the day, thought to have scored another, when her well struck strike has ended up in the net, before replays showed the ball rebounding of the post and bouncing over the line from the back of the unlucky American Samoa keeper Destiny Kapisi for an own goal.
American Samoa have kept their defensive structure and shape throughout the second half and their approach paid off to stem the flow.
After scoring eight times in the opening stanza, the New Zealanders were restricted to just four after the break, courtesy of Collins who struck twice to bag a six-goal haul, as well as contributions from Arabella Maynard and Charlotte Wilford-Carroll.
Following the match, coach Gemma Lewis heaped praise on her entire squad.
“It was good for us to play some different players today and rest some players as well. We’ve been managing our playing time throughout this tournament and we want to give everyone an opportunity so it was good for those girls to get on and also show that they can still compete,” she said.
“It was really nice to see that the players can slot in and it was no difference and they still completed the game plan that we were trying to execute,” added the New Zealand coach.
Meanwhile her American Samoa counterpart Stephen Settle paid tribute to both New Zealand and his own players.
“New Zealand is the class of the OFC on the women’s side, they’re what all the other countries are trying to achieve with the quality of play and it was a great test for American Samoa and for our girls and I’m proud of the way we played in the second half so it was a good job,” he said.