OFC: The Papua New Guinea women’s national team have made great ground since returning to action following last year’s OFC Women’s Nations Cup, making their international debut outside of Oceania as they build for the Pacific Games and Olympic qualifiers.
The side kicked off their return to the international stage with a two match series against Singapore, where they opened with a scoreless draw, before earning a 5-0 victory in their second match.
Next up are three matches against Thailand, ranked 31st in the world to Papua New Guinea’s 48th which the Ocenaia side achieved after making a massive 85 place leap up the table in the most recent women’s ranking release.
Papua New Guinea have been inactive since the OFC Women’s Nations Cup in October and returning coach Gary Phillips says the fact the side is on track is obvious from the differing results between match one and match two.
“It was our first game together in five months in a new country, with new food and many new faces so the adjustment takes a little time,” Phillips says.
“In game two the focus was better and the players now had some relative game time to digest their new responsibilities.”
Phillips says while results will always count to some degree, he’s pleased to have the team back in action.
“I’m happy to be playing games after spending so long dormant. Some of the girls hadn’t even played a game since the Nations Cup.”
Between finishing runners-up to New Zealand in Kokopo and heading off on their tour of South-East Asia, Phillips has made nine changes to the squad – a decision he says relates to the bigger picture.
“We are focusing on the Pacific Games and an opportunity to assess new talent is positive. However, it must be said that we are not yet at our Nations Cup level and we need absolute focus for the next few months.
“My expectations for this tour is for the players to gain an improved knowledge of how we play and to reconfirm clear objectives leading up to the Pacific Games and potentially an Olympic Games play-off.”
With two more matches against Thailand remaining, Phillips is realistic about his side’s chances.
“It will be very tough against Thailand who are just back from a European tour. In addition they have quality players and are ranked 31st in the world whereas we have had three games in five days – after nothing for five months.
After playing their first match against Thailand on Sunday, Papua New Guinea have two games remaining against their opponents on 11 and 14 March before they return to home soil where they will continue building for the 2015 Pacific Games.