Semi-finalists’ await tough clashes - Solomon Star News

Semi-finalists’ await tough clashes

15 August 2017

OFC: 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 today’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.”