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Tournament winners and a wondergoal as women’s international football returns

Papua New Guinea defeated Seychelles and Singapore to win the Tri-Nations Series 2022. Photo credit: PNGFA Facebook.

After a lengthy period of inactivity due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, international women’s football has returned for some teams in Oceania. While results were mixed, all will have relished the chance to represent their nation again, while one team even managed to claim a tournament win.

That triumph came courtesy of Papua New Guinea, who travelled to Singapore to participate in the Tri-Nations Series against the hosts and Seychelles.

It proved to be a successful campaign for Nicola Demaine’s side.

First they produced a brilliant performance to defeat the Seychelles 9-0 in their opening game. With Singapore also beating the Seychelles, the final game of the series became a decider between them and PNG.

In what was a tense affair against a well-organised home side, Papua New Guinea managed to claim the victory. A solitary goal from Sonia Embahe secured a 1-0 win and the overall victory, which will provide a confidence boost ahead of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup in July –  a tournament surely on the minds of all teams in our region during this international window.

New Zealand certainly picked up their preparations,  travelling to Australia for a couple of high-profile friendly games against their FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ co-hosts.

The Football Ferns travelled to Queensland where they came desperately close to a first win over their rivals since 1994 at the QCB Stadium in Townsville. It would have been an outstanding goal that earned that win as well, after Anna Green’s stunning effort from out wide gave New Zealand the lead, which they held until the dying moments of the game.

It was then, in the final minutes, that goals from Emily van Egmond and Sam Kerr condemned New Zealand to a 2-1 defeat and the wait for a win over Australia continued.

The Football Ferns struggled to push the Matildas in the same way in their second match of the tour, finding themselves 3-0 down after just 32 minutes at Deakin Stadium in Canberra.

Head coach Jitka Klimková will however have been impressed with the response from her team, with Hannah Wilkinson’s effort on the brink of half-time the final goal of the contest in a 3-1 loss.

Fiji, like New Zealand, were also in Australia but faced different opposition in the Philippines. Lisa Cole’s side will have been aware of the tough task at hand, as the Philippines have qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup next year, and it proved to be the case.

The Bula Girls lost 7-2 first time out in Sydney, but will be heartened by an improved second-half having trailed 5-0 after 45 minutes. The second game of the series ended 8-0. Fiji, who also played a number of local clubs in warm-up games, will however be pleased to have returned to international football ahead of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup – in which they reached the final in 2018.

Other nations across the region did not play international games but did do their utmost to start preparing for July’s competition.

Solomon Islands have been in a training camp which has included sessions at Lawson Tama Stadium and the Solomon Islands National Institute of Sport in Honiara. Tahiti also gathered for training whilst Vanuatu’s players were handed individual training programmes to work through whilst isolating during a Covid-19 related lockdown.

Samoa have been looking to the future with a talent identification programme running in Auckland with the hunt on for New Zealand-based players who have an interest in representing Samoa on the international stage as teams in the OFC begin bracing themselves for the OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022.

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