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Duo make their intentions clear

# # The opening match was a 0-0 stalemate between Papua New Guinea and Fiji, before New Zealand beat Group A hosts Samoa 9-1 and New Caledonia did away with Cook Islands 8-1 to close the day’s proceedings.#The encounter between Fiji and Papua New Guinea was expected to be a terse but even affair and it lived up to that prediction. In incredibly hot, humid conditions the sides struggled to get a foothold and it was Papua New Guinea that were offered the first clear opportunity to take the lead.# Oswald Bade was eyeing up the goal when he had his legs swept out from under him forcing referee Gerald Oiaka from Solomon Islands to point to the penalty spot. Brendon Kambual stepped up, but the low left-leaning shot wasn’t powerful enough, allowing Fiji goalkeeper Waisake Ravuiwasa to slap it away.# Just after the break Papua New Guinea were gifted a second chance after Fiji’s Shavneel Deo handled the ball in the area. This time it was Bade who stepped up to take the penalty but couldn’t convert either with his effort flying well over the target.# Papua New Guinea had the better chances during the run of play but their precision in front of goal, or lack of, proved costly, something coach Harrison Kameke noted.#“I’m a bit disappointed with the boys, it’s one of those games. We had it but we just gave it away.# “But I am happy with the performance if I can say we were more dominant but we couldn’t convert our chances,” he says.# For Fiji coach Kamal Swamy it was an equally disappointing afternoon as his side’s dream of making the semi-final slips further from reach.#“It was a better performance from my side but I think the heat took its toll.# “Let’s hope that the results fall in our favour and we improve in the coming games.”#On the back of previous matches Samoa went into their match against New Zealand on the front foot, with their only previous meeting at this level ending 1-0 in the Samoans favour.#However New Zealand have clearly continued to develop since 1997, while Samoa has at times been relatively inactive in comparison, giving the Kiwis the advantage. Unfortunately it didn’t take long for New Zealand to gain an advantage with an unlucky own goal getting the Young All Whites on their way in the fourth minute.#The second came courtesy of Ben Kiore in the 14th with goals to Jack Anderson and Jamie Woodlock giving New Zealand and 4-0 advantage going into the break. Substitute Logan Rogerson got the first of his three goal in the 63rd minute, with the second less than 10 minutes later. Anderson’s brace came from the penalty spot followed closely by substitute Connor Probert’s first of the match in the 84th. Rogerson added his third and New Zealand’s final before Samoa’s Frank Mariner scored a ripper in the 90th minute for the Group A hosts.#While the score line doesn’t reflect it, New Zealand were made to work hard by a determined Samoa side, as coach Jose Figuiera acknowleged.# “They tested us a little bit out there and certainly in the first half I was quite disappointed with the boys going in and I said our standards were a little bit low, but that was all credit to Samoa who made life very difficult, pressed us and had players behind the ball. We found it very difficult at times,” he says.# “Not using the conditions as an excuse, obviously most of the players aren’t used to playing in this kind of heat, but we took the opportunities and the guys that came on helped make an impact and keep the level which were all positives.”# Samoa coach Desmond Faai’uaso was heartened by an outstanding performance from his players, but disappointed in the final score line.# “I feel happy because I didn’t know that they could play like this. But I think all the effort and strength they put 100 per cent into playing New Zealand.# “Like I said before New Zealand is the best team, but we tried our best to beat them. Hard luck to my boys but I take my hat off to them for their performance.”#The final encounter saw New Caledonia take on Cook Islands, and a flurry of early goals made things interesting from the first kick off. Adopting the same defensive structure they employed against Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands set up deep and it looked like New Caledonia would struggle to work through it.# However appearances can be deceiving and in the fourth minute the side were on the board following an impressive bicycle kick from Etienne Poanoui. They followed that up less than a minute later with a long range effort from Jimmy Guseal.#Cook Islands weren’t ready to give up however, and in the 10th minute an impressive counter attack saw Rouruina Mariri rattle the net with a quality strike to bring his back in contention.#New Caledonia got their third in impressive fashion as a flying finish from Henri Boucheron finished an impressive period of play from his teammates. Cook Islands rallied and were able to hold off a further assault on goal until the break.#Five minutes after the restart they were again on the back foot as an own goal extended their opponents advantage. Etienne Poanoui’s brace was a powerful header off a Joris Kenon corner to take the tally to five, followed shortly after be one for Kenon himself. In the 76th minute substitute Maxime Betoulle added to Cook Islands misery before Boucheron picked up his second in additional time to leave the game at 8-1.#Delaney Yaqona says it was disastrous start and while they pulled themselves back into, individual errors again proved costly.#“I think the boys were pumped up for the game, I think the game in general showed that they were ready for it.#“There was a big step up from the first game. The first goal from New Caledonia was a good one and the second there was an issue with our keeper, and by the time he got back up the ball was in the back of the net, but the boys did well to fight back and get that goal and at 2-1 it was anyone’s game.#“But again our system is working but it’s just individuals and decisions they’re making on the field that we really need to pick up.”#Kamali Fitialeata says it was good to see the side finding the back of the net today.#“Today we were in the game better and we took the opportunities, so congratulations to the boys. But at the same time to concede one is less pleasing because the objective was not to concede today.#“We used a completely different tactic, a tactic specific to our opponent who we watched a little bit and analysed. We put something in place and it worked because we see it in the results.”# Match Day 4 sees a return to Pago Pago, American Samoa for Group B before Group A continues in Apia with Match Day 5 kicking off at J.S. Blatter Football Complex.#Match Day 5 takes place on Saturday 17 January with Fiji again called into early action this time against New Caledonia at 2pm. Papua New Guinea get their chance at an upset against New Zealand at 4.30pm before Cook Islands take on hosts Samoa at 7pm.#OFC Media

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