Papua New Guinea showed mettle in their 2-1 and 2-0 losses to a New Zealand Development team on Wednesday and Saturday respectively, in their last matches before heading home for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
The mid-week clash saw better football, with captain Yvonne Gabong leading a more experienced starting line-up that showed far greater composure on the ball than their clash against the New Zealand U-20 side last Sunday.
“I felt really good about the game. The girls really worked hard on our defence so I was ok with the score line,” Gabong said.
“As a team I think we just need to work on our defence and get the little things right on the field and keep our shape, then we will be good,” she added.
Papua New Guinea coach Lisa Cole gave less experienced players a run in the second match, but maintaining shape proved difficult without the leadership of Ramona Padio and other dominant players.
“Some of the players that haven’t played a lot of minutes were nervous and scared and I think that you saw that in the first half and then definitely an improvement in the second half when we got some of our leaders back on the field,” Cole said.
“I didn’t want to leave New Zealand having played only the starting group, I’ve got to know if one player goes down, which player can go in to replace them.
“We answered a lot of questions for ourselves today which was important but I was hoping for a little bit more heart in the game.”
The three results were not in the visitor’s favour but the matches have shown their improvement in both skill and mentality since their last international clash in Oceania at a tri-nations invitational tournament with USA and Japan back in June
“I don’t think we played quick enough to take advantage of it but there were opportunities created by us passing and moving the ball whereas in the US game we were just trying to get the ball out of bounds or just trying to get it away from players so that we could rest a little bit,” she said.
“Our fitness has improved and I think our confidence on the ball has improved.”
Drawn in a pool with Brazil, Sweden and Korea DPR, Cole knows the World Cup will be a huge challenge for the very new team but hopes to take as much away from the experience as possible.
“It’s going to be great because it’s going to give us experience,” she said.
“If you’re going to go to an event like this and you play the 18th best team or 17th best team, then it just feels like another game.
“We get to go play some of the best and from that, they’ll know what it takes to go to the next level.
“Once they’ve seen it they can aspire to be that.”
Papua New Guinea’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup debut against Brazil kicks off 13 November at Sir John Guise Stadium, Port Moresby at 7pm local time.