Port Vila’s Korman Stadium will provide the setting for Saturday’s festival of football to conclude the inaugural OFC Youth Development Tournament with three consecutive matches.
Playing for pride, Melanesian rivals Papua New Guinea and hosts Vanuatu will be both hoping to record their first win when the day’s opening match gets underway followed by the play-off for third place between European representatives Estonia and Group B runners up New Caledonia.
Group A winners Tahiti and India, the top side from Group B, will face each other in a highly anticipated inter-Confederation title decider in the final match of the historic competition.
Organised in partnership with UEFA through the UEFA Assist Programme, the main focus of the tournament has been on developing and educating our region’s players, coaches and referees in order to provide them with tools that will enhance their ability to perform on and off the field at future events on the global stage.
Despite a lesser focus on winning, come Saturday’s final both Tahiti and India will be extremely determined to finish on top by securing a historic title for themselves and their respective Confederation.
Tahiti coach Vatea Terai says prior to the tournament his side’s primary aim was to learn and improve with each matches, but now that they have qualified for the final the focus has shifted towards winning it.
“Making the final wasn’t our objective but we played our first game and we won, and we won the second match so we will play in the final against a very good team, it’s very good for us,” he explained.
Terai will be hoping his players can build on their 2-1 victory against Papua New Guinea and particularly on their impressive 1-0 win over UEFA representatives Estonia when they face India at Korman Stadium.
“It was very, very difficult, Estonia is a good team, but we’ve played better on the day and congratulation to all the kids. It was very hard because Estonia came to play too and the wanted to win the game too, we had many battles, very difficult and very physical game, and it was hard for the kids to hold their nerves and keep self-control said the Tahiti coach.
India have qualified for the final on the back of a 1-0 win over the host nation before brushing aside New Caledonia 4-1 in their match to decide group B supremacy.
Going into the title decider, Coach Floyd Pinto says he couldn’t be happier with his players form.
“The way the boys are playing right now gives us good confidence that they are able to control games, they are able to put the opposition under pressure. Getting four goals is very encouraging so I’m happy for that,” he enthused.
Pinto says his side, which has been training and playing together for the past six months, has been showing promising signs without getting the results in terms of winning their matches.
Therefore, it’s especially important for them to end the competition on top by notching up their third victory in a row.
“We have been playing well but not getting the win. So, we have come here with one aim for the tournament, not just to play well and not just to entertain the crowd but we also want to get that win. We have two wins in a row and looking forward to the final now,” said the India coach.
Pleased with his team’s performance so far, Pinto says the key is consistency and neither he or his players should try to alter their style and tactics.
“No reason to change, if it’s not broken don’t fix it so we are going the same way. But nothing is given, we won two games but it’s the past now, so we’ll have to focus, refocus and hopefully we will put in a good performance against a strong Tahiti side,” he said.
Before the final, the two runners-up from the group stages, Estonia and New Caledonia will go head-to-head for the bronze medal in another enticing inter-Confederation match-up.
Although disappointed after missing out on the tournament decider, Estonia coach Andres Opers wants his team to finish the competition in style.
“Absolutely, I think every coach wants that,” he said.
Fully focused on his side’s last-minute preparations, Opers was reluctant to give away too much.
“We are still preparing them, I have some plans, I’ve seen their (New Caledonia) game. I can’t really open all the cards but of course we are going to try to win that game,” the Estonia coach said.
Regardless of the outcome in their last match however, Opers is pleased with what the his coaching staff and his players have got out of the tournament.
“A lot of boys were given a chance to play for their place in the U-19s and a few of the showed great potential. It has been a real pleasure to work with them and I really enjoyed it, it has been a great tournament,” he said.
Meanwhile his New Caledonia counterpart Felix Tagawa says he is looking forward to another exciting challenge.
“Tahiti will play in the final and we’ll play Estonia for third place, it’s good. I’m not dissatisfied by the results,” he insisted.
Despite the 4-1 defeat to India that ended their title hopes, Les Cagous coach says his team has learned plenty from the experience and will take away valuable lessons from the tournament.
“We said from the beginning we wanted to come out and press high. What we did was maybe missed the mark in a match where we should have been pressing more in zones and what I’ve taken from that and what I like about these players is that we keep learning,” he explained.
“We had some good phases which we’ll keep, and some not so good phases which we’ll keep working on. But that’s part of learning especially against big nations, big teams. If you’re here to justify yourself in regards to the negative, that’s no good. If you’re here to say, ok we took a big hit but we’re ready to go further, that’s a better way to approach things,” said the New Caledonia coach.
Still searching for their first win of the tournament Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu will be both keen to end the competition on a high note when they meet in the opening match of the day for fifth place.
Papua New Guinea coach Anthony Pakakota admits his side’s results to date have been disappointing, but he believes the players have gained plenty of valuable lessons throughout the competition.
“First of all, we are here to learn as much as we can from a development point of view, he insisted.
“It’s not so much about winning or losing, it’s about trying to implement different tactics and structures we are trying to put in place for our youth teams and using this tournament as an opportunity for the players to gain international experience, so we have taken a lot of positives out from this both on the field and off the pitch,” he added.
Nevertheless, Pakakota is adamant his side is keen to avoid the wooden spoon.
“Definitely, we want to finish this tournament on a high, it would be good to get a win in the bag to get back home,” the Papua New Guinea coach admitted.
Meanwhile Vanuatu coach Paul Munster says he is happy with the way his team improved after losing to New Caledonia 3-1, to push India all the way in their second match before suffering a narrow 1-0 defeat.
“It didn’t go our way, but we knew how good India are, we had some different tactics set up and we did great in the first half to hold them 0-0. In the second half they had one situation when they scored, it happens in football just one error a lack of concentration in the box,” he said.
Relishing the experience, the tournament has provided, Vanuatu’s coach from Northern Ireland remains optimistic about his players’ ability to learn and further develop.
“Overall, I’m very happy with the boys, very proud of them especially since we only had two-three weeks of training. With their first game I wasn’t so happy, but it was their first game. Before their second game we asked them, can you stand up and be counted for, can you match them, and in the first half we matched them, for most part in the second half we matched them and we lost to an own goal, but we kept fighting till the end, defensively we were very good and with our transition we were very good also but we just lack that killer instinct in the end, we just don’t have that quality right now, but that will come with more training,” Munster explained.
Papua New Guinea vs Vanuatu
Saturday 24 August
Port Vila, Vanuatu
Referee: Sione MAU (ASA)
Assistant Referee 1: Malaetala SALANOA (SAM)
Assistant Referee 2: Vaihina TEURA (TAH)
Fourth Official: Rani PERRY (TAH)
Fifth Official: Aswin RAJ (FIJ)
PAPUA NEW GUINEA : 1. Adrian REDENUT (GK) 2. Elijah POTUA (DF) 3. Butler HOSEA (DF) 4. Moses SARUFA (DF) 5. Aydan JOKU (DF) 6. Joshua URRO (DF) 7. Jason WADUNAH (MF) 8. Lee-Navu FAUNT (MF) 9. Renagi ILA (FW) 10. Tuvirapa AINGAS (FW) 11. Morris DEVI (FW) 12. Kativa LUI (DF) 13. Isaiah NABA (DF) 14. Joseph WAIWAI (MF) 15. Solomon RANI (MF) 16. Joseph EALEDONA (MF) 17. Emmanuel BAFENG (MF) 18. Jamal MILLIS (FW) 19. Hayden RAMINAI (MF) 20. Andrew BANIAU (GK)
Head Coach: Anthony PAKAKOTA (PNG)
VANUATU: 1. James CHILIA (GK) 2. Junior OKAO (DF) 4. Julian ALA (DF) 5. Froncois ATEL (DF) 6. Alandro SAU (DF) 7. Julian BANGA (MF) 8. KARU Chrislee (MF) 9. Jonah ABEL (FW) 10. Jayson BULE (FW) 11. Pietro TAKARO (MF) 12. Austin HOLI (DF) 13. William TASAU (MF) 14. Bebeto RURUELI (MF) 15. Joel BOTLENG (DF) 16. Armando RAVO (MF) 17. Nicholas KINGS (DF) 18. Simione Iwai IWAI SIMIONE (FW) 19. Nimruken KLEN (MF) 20. Jimson SHEM (GK) 23. Brendon TANKON (GK)
Head Coach: Paul MUNSTER (IRL)
Estonia vs New Caledonia
Saturday 24 August
Port Vila, Vanuatu
Referee: Ben AUKWAI (SOL)
Assistant Referee 1: Colin LOWONG (PNG)
Assistant Referee 2: Denson SALE (VAN)
Fourth Official: Veer SINGH (FIJ)
Fifth Official: Tom MAIMAI (VAN)
ESTONIA: 1. Martin TILK (GK) 2. Ralf-Sander SUVINÕMM (DF) 3. Erik KRUGLOV (DF) 4. Naatan Siimeon TAMM (DF) 5. Kristo HUSSAR (DF) 6. Georg GRAHV (DF) 7. Aleksander ILJIN (MF) 8. Artjom KOVRIGIN (DF) 9. Daniel FEDOTOV (ST) 10. Ivan TIMOFEJEV (MF) 11. Ralf FRIEDEMANN (MF) 12. Matheas MADIK (GK) 13. Georg-Marten MEUMERS (MF) 14. Raoul RIIGOV (MF) 15. Daniel TUHKANEN (MF) 16. Robin LIMBERG (MF) 17. Joonas LUTS (MF) 18. Nikita KARASJOV (MF) 19. Arthur JERŠOV (MF) 20. Rocco MÕTT (MF)
Head Coach: Andres OPER (EST)
New Caledonia: 1. Gaizka IPEZE (GK) 2. Georges WAKANUMUNE (DF) 3. Jimmy WAUNIE (DF) 4. Willy READ (DF) 5. Kiam WANESSE (DF) 6. Eric TEIN (MF) 7. Roberto WAIA (MF) 8. Yoan BEARUNE (MF) 9. Lues WAYA (FW) 10. Jacques WATRONE (MF) 11. Luc POUGIN (FW) 12. Fernand NEDEA (DF) 13. Issarael WANESSE (MF) 14. Rayan OUE (FW) 15. Jean-Pierre ENOKA (FW) 20. Yohan BOA (FW) 17. Alan HNAWEO (FW) 18. Kirvin KATRAWA (MF) 19. David POUYA (FW) 16. Malcom JUNI (GK)
Head Coach: Felix TAGAWA (NCL)
Tahiti vs India
Saturday 24 August
Port Vila, Vanuatu
Referee: Sione LELENGA (TGA)
Assistant Referee 1: Edward COOK (NZL)
Assistant Referee 2: Aswin RAJ (FIJ)
Fourth Official: Roger ADAMS (PNG)
Fifth Official: Malaetala SALANOA (SAM)
TAHITI: 1. Mael WILLIAMS (GK) 2. Takai SCHMIT (DF) 3. Honoura MARAETEFAU (DF) 4. Manatini SIENNE (DF) 5. Manuarii VAHIRUA (DF) 6. Mata ANDRE-FOUET (MF) 7. Tonitini CHUNG (FW) 8. Heealii AMARU (MF) 9. Ariiura LABASTE (FW) 10.Tehauarii HOLOZET (MF) 11. Paofai TERIITEMATAUA (FW) 12. Tehotu GITTON (FW) 13. Denji KAIHA (FW) 14. Heihau HANERE (MF) 15. Noah AUSSILLOUS (DF) 16. Anapa DEBRUYNE (GK) 17. Sofiene BOUKROUMA (MF) 18. Tanaoa HIOE (MF) 19. Maui HOURTAL (MF) 26. Terehau CHAN (GK)
Head Coach: Vatea TERAI (TAH)
INDIA: 1. Prabhsukhan SINGH (GK) 2. Muhammed RAFI (DF) 3. Jitendra SINGH (DF) 4. Akash MISHRA (DF) 6. Vikram PARTAP (MF) 7. Ninthoinganba MEETEI (MF) 9. Aman CHETRI (FW) 10. Givson SINGH (MF) 11. Manvir SINGH (FW) 12. Gurkirat SINGH (DF) 13. Lalbiakhlua JONGTE (GK) 14. Ricky SHABONG (MF) 15. Jeakson SINGH (MF) 16. Bikash YUMNAM (DF) 17. Ravi BAHADUR (MF) 18. Sumit RATHI (DF) 21. Niraj KUMAR (GK) 23. Sanoop CHANDRAN (MD) 24. Thoiba SINGH (DF) 25. Hormipam RUIVAH (DF)
Head Coach: Floyd PINTO (IND)
The OFC would like to acknowledge its tournament sponsor UEFA ASSIST