RAROTONGA, OFC – With New Zealand all but through to the semi-final stage already, the focus on Match Day 5 of the 2016 OFC U-17 Women’s Championship falls directly on New Caledonia and Tonga as they battle for the remaining spot out of Group A.
The games will be played simultaneously at 2pm local time at two different venues.
Tonga vs. New Zealand is being held at Takitumu School in Matavera and Samoa vs. New Caledonia at the CIFA Academy.
Tonga face a monumental task in order to qualify for the next round, needing to either beat defending champions New Zealand, or at the very least keep a low losing margin and hope New Caledonia lose their clash with Samoa.
New Zealand are yet to concede a goal in the tournament, and at the other end have netted a tournament-high 23 of their own.
Their participation in the next round is almost guaranteed even if they lose, given they sit at the top of the ladder with a +23 goal difference.
Coach Gareth Turnbull says he is happy with how his side is building with each game, and isn’t planning too many changes for the Tonga match.
“I think we will be trying to do more of the same. The more we play as a group the more cohesive we become, so I am excited for where we can get to in a few weeks.”
Tonga had their first win at OFC U-17 Women’s Championship level on Match Day 3, which keeps them in the race to play past the group stage.
Coach Christian Koaneti says his team will go into the game without any pressure on them.
“We know our chances of making the next stage are pretty slim, so we will go all out,” Koaneti says.
“New Zealand are a pretty fit team and technically they are well equipped. But we will go hard and play our island style and make sure we match them physically.”
For New Caledonia any result against Samoa could potentially get Matthieu Delcroix’s side through, but they will also have to be wary of their -5 goal difference compared to Tonga’s -2.
Impressive in a first-up 5-0 victory over Tonga, New Caledonia defended well for periods against New Zealand but eventually fell to a heavy 12-0 loss.
Delcroix says the last couple of days have been about helping the team to leave past results out of their minds and dedicating full attention to Samoa.
“We have been focusing on our recuperation, because in this type of tournament that is important,” Delcroix says.
“We have been working on lifting the girls’ heads after the defeat to New Zealand and focussing solely on Samoa and getting past them to qualify for the semi-finals.”
Samoa have experienced a tough tournament so far, and join Cook Islands as the only teams without a win to date.
While they sit on no points with little hope of qualifying past the group stage, Samoa coach Nadia Malifa says it is important they put in a strong showing.
“We have had a look at what went wrong in the first two games and have prepared well for this one,” Malifa says.
“We have a few players still out injured, so we will wait until late to decide on them, said Malifa.