Papua New Guinea made their FIFA U-20 World Cup debut in 2016 and they’re hungry for another taste of the world stage, but with defending regional champions New Zealand first up at the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship tomorrow they’ll have their work cut out for them.
Leading a side bursting with talent and experience, New Zealand coach Gareth Turnbull is feeling confident about the opening match despite the limited time his side has had to prepare together.
“The group came together two days ago, so we’ve effectively had three training sessions,” he said.
“They came into camp a little bit quiet and subdued but as soon as we took to the pitch on Saturday afternoon they were buzzing. Everyone’s in good form – playing regularly with their club sides here – so we’re looking forward to getting started.
“All bar two of our group have represented our country at an age group level, which is awesome to have under our belts. We’ll just go out and focus on what we can do and control, and play our style of football. Hopefully that will be good enough on the day.”
Papua New Guinea have gained confidence following their world cup debut on home soil and are determined to make a return at France 2018.
Despite the odds being in New Zealand’s favour, Papua New Guinea coach Rachel Wadunah is feeling confident about challenging the defending champions.
“As an opener I know it will be very challenging for us, especially having only arrived in Auckland yesterday, but I’m pretty confident my girls are ready for the game,” she said.
“I know New Zealand are a favourite but my girls are looking forward to the game tomorrow.
“The atmosphere in the team has been good. They are all psyched up and they keep telling me how excited they are to play New Zealand.”
Following the showdown between New Zealand and Papua New Guinea at 10am, Fiji will be making their competition debut when they face Tonga at 12:30pm.
Well-aware of Tonga’s strong development in women’s football, Fiji coach Saroj Kumar is preparing for a tough opening game, and without 2016 OFC U-17 Women’s Championship Golden Glove Francine Lockington between the posts, the challenge for Fiji will be even greater.
“Our trainings were going very well but we were hugely affected by the loss of Francine who is still in the hospital and we are still praying for her to get well,” Kumar said.
“That has really been a big blow for us, losing our first goalkeeper but nevertheless we’ll try do well in the tournament.”
Fiji’s lack of experience could prove an advantage tomorrow however Tonga coach Christian Koaneti isn’t feeling hindered by the unpredictability of his opponent as he tries to prepare his side for their clash with the debutants.
“I’m pretty confident with how the team has been training so far. We’ve just finished a warm-up match against Macleans College and the result turned out good but the fact that I haven’t seen Fiji play, It would be a lie if I told you that I’m fully confident for tomorrow,” he said.
“But the way we’ve trained so far over this past week, I have faith that the girls will achieve what is expected of them.”
The first day of the regional competition will wrap up with 2015 runners-up Samoa facing New Caledonia at 3pm, and although Samoa coach Martin Tamasese believes the match will be close, he has full faith in his side securing three points.
“I think we play a similar style to New Caledonia but I saw all our girls training together yesterday and there’s a big push up when they all join together,” he said.
“We were the silver medallists in 2015 so we want to be competitive this year and we want to improve from that.”
After suffering heavy defeats in the last edition of the competition, New Caledonia coach Kamali Fitialeata is eager for redemption but is also well-aware that taking on 2015’s runners-up in their opening match will be a true test of their development over the past two years.
“We want to do better than last time. We were really undone by New Zealand last time and our goal is to do much better than that this time,” he said.
“I know Samoa are a nation under development in terms of women’s football but I don’t know much about this team.
“Tomorrow we’ll be aiming to give the best that we can.”
New Zealand vs. Papua New Guinea
Auckland, New Zealand
Tuesday 11 July
Referee: Tapaita LELENGA (TGA)
Assistant Referee 1: Lata KAUMATULE (TGA)
Assistant Referee 2: Natalia LUMUKANA (SOL)
Fourth Official: Torika DELAI (FIJ)
Vital Statistics: New Zealand are the hot favourites for the competition as they chase a sixth consecutive title.
The Players: Only recently turning 18 years old, midfielder Grace Jale already carries an impressive football resume, representing New Zealand at both the FIFA U-17 and U-20 Women’s World Cups, and getting the call-up to join the Football Ferns on several occasions. Her international experience and humble personality makes her a strong leader on the field, while her youthful speed and agility makes her a challenging opponent.
Coach Quote: “It’s certainly an exciting game to begin the tournament with. Last time we played Papua New Guinea was in the OFC U-17 Women’s Championship final last year and we know they’re going to be a well-organised and competitive group so we’re really excited and looking forward to the match.”
New Zealand: 1. Anna LEAT (GK), 2. Saskia VOSPER, 3. Rebecca LAKE, 4. Elizabeth ANTON, 5. Sarah MORTON, 6. Grace JALE, 7. Emma MAIN, 8. Malia STEINMETZ, 9. Samantha TAWHARU, 10. Hannah BLAKE, 11. Jacqui HAND, 12. Emma CLARKE, 13. Nadia OLLA (GK), 14. Claudia BUNGE, 15. Michaela FOSTER, 16. Nicole METTAM, 17. Dayna STEVENS, 18. Alosi BLOOMFIELD, 19. Deven JACKSON, 20. Serena MURRIHY
Coach: Gareth Turnbull (NZL)
Papua New Guinea
Vital Statistics: Other than New Zealand, Papua New Guinea are the only other nation in the Confederation to participate in a FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. With the memories of the world stage still lingering on in the back of their minds, they are more eager than ever to make their return in 2018.
The Players: Nicollete Ageva will be the one to watch up front after scoring Papua New Guinea’s only goal at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016, against none other than the eventual winners of the competition, Korea DPR.
Coach Quote: “My goal is to make sure we put up a very challenging game against New Zealand and if things don’t happen in our favour, we need to at least draw against them. That’s my goal – to make sure New Zealand doesn’t beat us.”
Papua New Guinea: 1. Faith KASIRAY (GK), 2. Natasha SAGEM, 3. Margret JOSEPH, 4. Isabella NATERA, 5. Bridget PAIME, 7. Marity SEP, 8. Alison PAULIAS, 9. Selina UNAMBA, 10. Nicollete AGEVA, 12. Belinda GIADA, 13. Ramona PADIO, 14. Leah KARO, 16. Serah TAMGOL, 17. Melisa JOFARI, 18. Jacklyn MAIYOSI, 19. Gorethy PAOFA, 20. Amatha MISTERA
Coach: Rachel Wadunah (PNG)
Tonga vs. Fiji
Auckland, New Zealand
Tuesday 11 July
Referee: Rani PERRY (TAH)
Assistant Referee 1: Maria SALAMASINA (SAM)
Assistant Referee 2: Regina TEUA (TAH)
Fourth Official: Morgan ARCHER (NZL)
Vital Statistics: Tonga’s highest placing in the competition’s history was at the 2006 OFC U-20 Women’s Championship on home soil, where they reached the final, only to concede to eventual champions New Zealand. Since then, Tonga earned third place in 2010 and 2014 but has not been able to repeat the success of their 2006 campaign.
The Players: Seini Lutu only celebrated her 16th birthday this year, but the young midfielder will be able to contribute international experience to the side, having already represented Tonga at the 2014 and 2015 OFC U-20 Women’s Championships, and the 2016 OFC U-17 Women’s Championship. Lutu’s dominance on the ball and strong finish earned her domestic club Veitongo FC many victories in their 2017 season.
Coach Quote: “I know the girls have come here to perform accordingly and do what is expected of them. The ultimate goal of course is to represent the Confederation. There will be a few tough nuts to crack but we’ll give it a go, that’s what we’re here for.”
Tonga: 1. Mele AKOLO (GK), 2. Fifi MOALA, 3. Michelle TUITUPOU, 4. Meleseini TUFUI, 5. Manusiu LATAVAO, 6. Siunipa TALASINGA, 7. Seini LUTU, 8. Halaunga TAHOLO, 9. Carmel UHILA, 10. Teisa FUSI, 11. Mele KAFA, 12. Ofa ATAONGO, 13. Peta FENUKITAU, 14. Patricia LIKILIKI, 15. Luseane VIVILI, 16. Katalina TALIAULI, 17. Kalolaine TALIAULI, 18. Sosefina HAVEA, 19. Alexandra FIFITA, 20. Adrienne TAHITUA (GK)
Coach: Christian KOANETI (TGA)
Vital Statistics: Fiji will be making their debut in this year’s edition of the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship (previously named the OFC U-20 Women’s Championship).
The Players: Cema Nasau proved her ability up front for Fiji last year at the OFC U-17 Women’s Championship in the Cook Islands, finding the net in all three of the group stage matches against Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands and Vanuatu, then finding the net twice in their third/fourth place play-off against New Caledonia to secure bronze for her country.
Coach Quote: “We know that Tonga always has a good, strong women’s team so we’ll try to work on our basics first and we will approach the game very cautiously since this is our first game. We have to be strong in the back and try to maintain Tonga as the game goes and we’ll see how it progresses then make changes according to the game tempo.”
Fiji: 1. Ateca TUWAI (GK), 2. Cecelia NAINIMA, 3. Mereoni TORA, 4. Sekola WAQANIDROLA, 5. Veniana RANADI, 6. Ledua SENISEA, 7. Koleta LIKUCULACULA, 8. Timaima VUNIYAYAWA, 9. Asenaca DIRANUVE, 10. Luisa TAMANITOAKULA, 11. Cema NASAU, 12. Silina QARAWAQA, 13. Louisa SIMMONS, 14. Miriama BAKANICEVA, 15. Maca RALAGI, 16. Aliza HUSSEIN, 17. Miliana BUREITAU, 18. Cynthia DUTT, 19. Laca TIKOSAYA, 20. Maria PARR (GK)
Coach: Saroj KUMAR (FIJ)
New Caledonia vs. Samoa
Auckland, New Zealand
Tuesday 11 July
Referee: Nadia BROWNING (NZL)
Assistant Referee 1: Stephanie MINAN (PNG)
Assistant Referee 2: Beth RATTRAY (NZL)
Fourth Official: Torika DELAI (FIJ)
Vital Statistics: New Caledonia’s highest placing in the OFC U-20 Women’s Championship was in 2012 when they finished third behind New Zealand and Papua New Guinea at the conclusion of the round-robin competition.
The Players: With many faces moving up the ranks from the U-17 national teams, Johana Takamatsu will be a player fresh in many of the Samoans’ memories. The talented midfielder was one of the makers of Samoa’s demise at the OFC U-17 Women’s Championship 2016, scoring two goals to see New Caledonia through to the semi-finals and sending Samoa home from the competition.
Coach Quote: “It will be a good match for us, and as the first match it’s a good chance for us to gain some confidence. It’s a good experience so far and the players are ready to start discovering this level. Tomorrow we’ll be aiming to give the best that we can.”
New Caledonia: 1. Karine XOZAME (GK), 2. Darnelle HACE, 3. Joséphine SAKILIA, 4. Ami-Nata AJAPUHNYA, 5. Sonia HNANGANYAN, 6. Isabelle ILENGO, 7. Océane FOREST, 8. Shaya IHMELING, 9. Alice WENESSIA, 10. Marie-Laure PALENE, 11. Jeanine HUMUNIE, 12. Johana TAKAMATSU, 13. Ivonne XOWI, 14. Cassidy CAWA, 15. Valérie HOLUE, 16. Donatienne BALY, 17. Moïsette BROUSTET, 18. Isabelle HNAWEONGO, 19. Marie WANEUX, 20. Kathleen WAUNIE (GK)
Coach: Kamali FITIALEATA (NCL)
Vital Statistics: Samoa will have big shoes to fill in this competition after the same age-group representatives from the Polynesian island nation finished in second place at the 2015 edition of the competition.
The Players: After leading the team through a tough debut at the 2016 OFC U-17 Women’s Championship, U-17 captain Shalom Fiso has moved up the age-groups to offer Samoa vision and skill in the U-19 competition. Her strong communication skills and calm personality give Fiso the ability to bring a team together and play-off her teammates’ individual strengths.
Coach Quote: “Our team is prepared. We had our first run together here yesterday and we’re going to have a second run today. The girls are ready. It will be a good game to watch.”
Samoa: 1. Katarina AH SUI (GK), 2. Renee ATONIO, 3. Hunter MALAKI, 4. Epi TAFILI, 5. Mariecamilla AH KI, 6. Sonya TANUVASA, 7. Rachael TAGATAULI, 8. Liana SOIFUA, 9. Tianna SEKONA, 10. Shalom FISO, 11. Matalena FASSAVALU, 12. Talaiesea MULITALO, 13. Mole SAOFAIGA, 14. Emele PALETASALA, 15. Natiflo PEREIRA, 16. Conzuella VATU, 17. Vineta FALEAANA, 18. Jecky TOMA (GK)
Coach: Martin TAMASESE (SAM)