Regional powerhouse and six-time champions New Zealand will face their toughest Group B challengers Tahiti in Tuesday’s opening encounter at the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship, followed by a traditionally fierce Pacific derby between Oceania cousins and rivals Samoa and American Samoa.
With the top two teams both advancing into the semi-finals from Group B, and following big wins for both New Zealand and Tahiti in their openers, another victory for either of those sides would all but secure their place in the final four with a matchday to spare.
Although New Zealand’s ruthless 30-nil demolition of Samoa sent shockwaves through the competition, their francophone rivals are looking forward to the huge test ahead of them.
Following the Tahitian women’s team impressive debut match in the U-19 age group, which ended in comprehensive 7-0 victory over American Samoa, coach Stéphanie Spielmann is now keen to measure her troops against the top side in our region.
“We are very happy and excited to play New Zealand, they are the best team in Oceania, and this match will give us the best indication of how good Tahit is,” the Tahiti coach insisted.
“They play a wonderful brand of football, a great team and it’s a fantastic challenge for us, we know it will be very hard, but we want to give them a fight, we are happy to face them and looking forward to it,” Spielmann added.
Based on their opening performance against Samoa, and particularly by their eye-catching and clinical display in the first half, the Tahitians have every reason to approach their next challenge against New Zealand with plenty of confidence.
However, the slick, pacy, technically gifted and tactically well prepared New Zealanders will begin the match as overwhelming favourites to continue their quest for their sevenths consecutive OFC crown and a place in next year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Coach Gemma Lewis admits she has a limited knowledge of Tahiti but insists, just like in the previous game, the main focus will be placed on her own side.
“We don’t have as much knowledge of Tahiti as we would like but we do expect a tougher challenge. I think each game and opponent will propose a different challenge or problem for us and we are going to adapt to that but focus on how we want to play,” she explained
“We are not looking to change too much, we will be focusing on building our team and what we want to do and how we want to play in each game and we’ll try to add something different to the performance in terms of a focus, but it won’t necessarily be based on Tahiti or any other opposition but based on how we want to build our playing style,” added the New Zealand coach.
Pride and bragging rights will be well and truly on the line during American Samoa’s meeting with their close rivals Samoa in the later kick off on Match Day 4.
Despite both these sides suffering heavy defeats in their group openers, American Samoa coach Stephen Kettle believes none of the players will need extra motivation when they come up against each other.
“It’s a game which has a lot of importance on both islands and we are not lost in that and we are going to come out and give our best,” he said.
Based on their much improved second half performance against Tahiti, in which they went toe-to-toe with their francophone opponents to only concede once from a penalty, the American Samoans have every reason to be confident.
Kettle was also quick to point to July’s Pacific Games in Apia, where the unfancied American Samoans played out a scoreless draw with the eventual runners-up Samoa.
“This is going to be a great test for our girls. We had a great game against them at the Pacific Games and a lot of our girls were in that team and we frew with them, and of course Samoa made the gold medal game,” said the American Samoan coach.
Meanwhile Samoa will need to forget about their disappointing opening match against New Zealand, dust themselves off and refocus on their next challenge.
And coach Lanuola Mulipola insists her players have the ability to rise to the occasion.
“It’s a very important game for us. We have to be well prepared and we have to motivate eachother and we have to work on our defence and show improvement in that game,” she said.
“American Samoans are like brothers and sisters but we don’t want to know each other until after the game. We all very much looking forward to the game against them,” added the Samoa coach,”
Tahiti vs New Zealand
Tuesday 2 September (Wednesday 3 September NZ time)
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Click here for the live stream
Referee: Timothy NIU (SOL)
Assistant Referee 1: Lata KAUMATULE (TGA)
Assistant Referee 2: John PAREANGA (COK)
Fourth Official: Terika DELAI (FIJ)
TAH – 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 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)
American Samoa vs. Samoa
Tuesday 3 September (Wednesday 4 September NZ time)
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Click here for the live stream
Referee: Fina ANGELO (VAN)
Assistant Referee 1: Jacintha TANGA (VAN)
Assistant Referee 2: Ofaloto LAAKULU (TGA)
Fourth Official: Tapaita LELENGA (TGA)
ASA – 1. Malia IOLAMA (GK), 2. Olivia VAIOMOUNGA, 3. Susanna LUTALI, 4. Veronica IUPATI, 5. Tatiana JACKSON, 6. Aileen IEREMIA, 7. Aggie PATI, 8. Precious IEREMIA, 9. Elcy LUI, 10. Eseta ENESI, 11. Agnes SIAOSI, 12. Ama FALEAO, 13. Oloa TOFAEONO, 14. Eliza BERONDO, 15. Shaloriana TAUAEFA, 16. Precious FAAMOANA, 17. Grace MALAEFONO, 23. Destiny KAPISI (GK)
Head Coach: Steve Settle (USA)
SAMOA – 1. ASOFA SALELE, 2. Michayla CHAMBERLAIN, 4. Vineta FALEAANA, 5. Afioga FAALOGOASO, 6. Lefiufinau SALU FINAU, 7. Pisila IONATANA 8. Mole SAOFAIGA, 9. Angela VON HEIDERBRANDT, 10. Madeleen AH KI, 11. Mata TALIU, 12. Tiare TUIMAVAVE, 13. Zoe RUBY, 14. Talaisea MULITALO, 15. Helina PAULO, 16. Lusia SCHUSTER, 17. Fofoga SAMUELU, 18. Dawn FETALAIGA, 20. Nefu WONG, 23. Alana TUALAULELEI (GK)
Suspended: 3. Paepae TUITAMA
Head Coach: Lanuola MULIPOLA (Samoa)