|The OFC U-16 Women’s Championship final is only one win away for four teams but New Zealand, Cook Islands, Fiji and New Caledonia are all preparing for tough encounters when they meet in Tuesday’s semi-finals in Apia, Samoa.
The defending champions will be up first, taking on Cook Islands – who will be making their first ever appearance in the knockout stage – on the main field at J.S. Blatter Football Complex at 5pm.
New Zealand coach Leon Birnie is feeling confident following three impressive wins in the group stage and plans to use their Cook Islands encounter to further develop the style of play he and the young side have been working on throughout their campaign.
“We’ve got to go out there and win but we’ve got a few areas that we’re working on so we’re also going to go out and continue trying to execute those,” he said.
“If we qualify, the World Cup is at the end of next year and we’re just introducing them into new concepts and areas that we’re trying to work on so at the moment it is all around intent. We’re trying to do things and if the execution is not quite there, we can accept that at the moment.”
Cook Islands coach Theresa Tutuava is expecting a tough mental challenge for her inexperienced but eager squad as they take on the defending champions.
“We need to be prepared for New Zealand,” she said.
“One of our biggest battles has been getting the girls prepared for this mentally. It is very difficult, we’ve got a lot of young players that have not had any international experience.
“We were hoping that we wouldn’t get into this situation so early but we just have to prepare ourselves as best we can and get the girls back into game mode.”
Fiji and New Caledonia will meet in the later match of the day, both vying for another chance to prove themselves after New Caledonia’s loss to New Zealand in the group stage and Fiji’s loss to New Zealand in the semi-final last year.
Fiji coach Marika Rodu is feeling positive after his team’s outstanding final group match against Cook Islands but is well-aware of the challenge ahead of them this Tuesday.
“They have been competitive in this competition but we’ll try to knock New Caledonia’s game. We’ll look for weaknesses that we can step into and penalise them,” he said.
“It’s not going to be any easy game for us but we’ve been here before – in the semi-finals – but this time we would like to take a step further and make it to the finals.”
New Caledonia coach Matthieu Delcroix is also preparing for a tough match and knows Fiji will be a worthy contender after their impressive campaign so far.
“It will be a hard game because they came first in their group – if they came first they must have played well,” he said.
“I’ve seen some highlights of their game – they are very fast and have good technical skills.
“I’m feeling confident with my team though. They have good team spirit and they want to reach the final. They want to play for their country and show that women’s football in New Caledonia is great.”
New Zealand v Cook Islands
J. S. Blatter Football Complex
Tuesday 15 August
Kick-off: 5pm FJ Time
Referee: Ben AUKWAI (SOL)
Assistant Referee 1: Shama MAEMAE (SOL)
Assistant Referee 2: Telesia TEISINA (TGA)
Fourth Official: Tapaita LELENGA (TGA)
Vital Statistics: New Zealand have an impressive track record in the semi-final stage, defeating Fiji 11-0 in the last edition of the competition to secure their meeting with Papua New Guinea in the final.
The Players: Jayda Stewart showcased her skills on the ball in New Zealand’s last match against Samoa, using her fancy footwork to take on multiple defenders and cause trouble in the Samoa penalty box. Stewart also combined well with Aniela Jenson and Kelli Brown, looking to build up play and keep possession in the attacking third while they waited patiently for an opening in the backline.
Coach Quote: “We’re feeling good. I’ve said all the way through we’ll just approach every game as they come. We’ve got to go out there and win but we’ve also got a few areas that we’re working on so we’re going to go out and continue trying to execute those.”
New Zealand: 1. Georgia CANDY (GK), 2. Shannon TREBES, 3. Aneka MITTENDORFF, 4. Hannah MACKAY-WRIGHT, 5. Amy WATERS, 6. Grace WISNEWSKI, 7. Kelli BROWN, 8. Maya HAHN, 9. Margot RAMSAY, 10. Maggie JENKINS, 11. Arabella MAYNARD, 12. Macey FRASER, 13. Rylee GODBOLD, 14. Mackenzie BARRY, 15. Gabrielle RENNIE, 16. Jayda STEWART, 17. Aniela JENSEN, 18. Britney CUNNINGHAM-LEE.
Coach: Leon BIRNIE (NZL)
Vital Statistics: Cook Islands will be making their first ever appearance in the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship semi-final when they meet New Zealand on Tuesday afternoon.
The Players: Esther Potoru and Tia Tuivaga were a strong duo in Cook Islands match against Fiji, shutting down countless plays through the middle with strong tackles and reacting quickly to threats in their defensive third. They collaborated well with goalkeeper Dora Iripa, who often came forward to receive and distribute and act as a fifth defender against the speedy Fijians.
Coach Quote: “We were hoping that we wouldn’t get into this situation so early but we just have to prepare ourselves as best we can and get the girls back into game mode. We need to be prepared for New Zealand.”
Cook Islands: 1. Dora IRIPA (GK), 2. Lyric DAVISON, 3. Teretia TEINAKI, 4. Ngame TARINGA, 5. Tia TUIVAGA, 6. Esther POTORU, 7. Piri MURARE, 8. Tehinnah TATUAVA, 9. Viorangi KITE, 10. Keana MAAKA, 11. Merran MUNRO, 12. Nathalia VIKING, 13. Tepaeru NGAROI, 14. Eitiare TANGIRERE, 15. Alma NGAMETUA, 16. Ngarangi MAPU
Coach: Theresa TATUAVA (COK)
Fiji v New Caledonia
J.S. Blatter Football Complex
Tuesday 15 August
Kick-off: 8pm FJ Time
Referee: Sione MAU (ASA)
Assistant Referee 1: Maria SALAMASINA (SAM)
Assistant Referee 2: Heloise SIMONS (NZL)
Fourth Official: Rani PERRY (TAH)
Vital Statistics: Fiji reached the semi-final stage of the competition last year but were defeated 11-0 by New Zealand.
The Players: Eseta Sinukula was a dangerous force up front for Fiji in their 2-0 win against Cook Islands, using her speed to break through the Cook Islands backline and open the scoring for Fiji with a well-executed shot at goal. The attacker has showcased her impressive fitness throughout the competition and works well to combine with Viniana Buke and Dilaisana Drodrolagi in the attacking third.
Coach Quote: “It’s not going to be any easy game for us but we’ve been here before – in the semi-finals – but this time we would like to take a step further and make it to the finals.”
Fiji: 1. Seru VASUITOGA (GK), 2. Avisaki TORO, 3. Viniana BUKE, 4. Sovaia RANADI, 5. Eseta SINUKULA, 6. Amelia CEVARIKI, 7. Tabua LIKUMOTOVAI, 8. Kelera RADINICALIA, 9. Losana BAINIVALU, 10. Fatima TABUANITOGA, 11. Harina ERASITO, 12. Titilia WAQABACA, 13. Emily ROKOCIRI, 14. Alisi QEREQERETABUA, 15. Luisiana LAGILEVU, 16. Dilaisana DRODROLAGI, 17. Vani BAINIVALU, 18. Ulita ALFRED, 19. Filomena RACEA (GK), 20. Raijel PASIRIO (GK)
Coach: Marika RODU (FIJ)
Vital Statistics: New Caledonia reached the semi-final stage of the competition in the Cook Islands last year but were defeated 2-1 by Papua New Guinea.
The Players: Lorenza Hnamano played a key role in New Caledonia’s win over Tahiti in their last group match, pulling off countless impressive saves and acting as an option for her centre backs when they were under pressure from Tahiti’s high-pressing attackers. The keeper is always calm on the ball and always ready to save the follow-up when she punches an attempt away from goal.
Coach Quote: “The big challenge for us will be to play at all avail. I think if we use the style of play we’ve been trying to develop, there will be no big problems against Fiji.”
New Caledonia: 1. Lorenza HNAMANO (GK), 2. Justine MALAXAN, 3. Cheyenne CIWE, 4. Babette SIMANE, 5. Melissa IEKAWE, 6. Lucinda KOINDREDI, 7. Imelda QENEGEI, 8. Jackie PAHOA, 9. Katinka TAKAMATSU, 10. Marie-Laure PALENE, 11. Edsy MATAO, 12. Ismaella WEDEMERINWI, 13. Alizé SAKILIA, 14. Loéa AJAPUHNYA, 15. Fiona IHAGE, 16. Marthe KATRAWA, 17. Chloé UFEPI, 18. Anne-Laure ANGEXETINE, 19. Lorna TARAWIE, 20. Serena HULIWA (GK).
Coach: Matthieu DELCROIX (FRA)