January 24, 2016

New Zealand claim 2016 OFC U-17 Women's Championship title

Despite coming up against a determined and capable Papua New Guinea outfit, the result was never really in doubt for Gareth Turnbull’s New Zealand side, who led 2-0 at half time before piling on the goals in the second 45 minutes.

The dominant showing at the tournament in Rarotonga, Cook Islands sets the tone for the journey ahead according to Turnbull, who praised his side for their efforts which saw them win every game and not concede a single goal.

“It feels very good to know that we have wrapped this up and are heading to the World Cup,” Turnbull says.

“We had our goals we wanted to achieve in the final and we did that, against a pretty determined Papua New Guinea who came out very strong defensively but also threatened us in attack.

“We had to wait a while for our chances to open up, the first goal came after 20 minutes and was a bit of a stress reliever for us because we were getting pretty tense on the sideline.

“I am really proud of the way the girls handled themselves at this tournament and am now looking forward to the next stage of our journey.”

The possession advantage was with New Zealand from the opening kick-off until the final whistle, but the staunch Papua New Guinea line refused to be breached through the opening exchanges.

Both Jacqui Hand and Malia Steinmetz had good scoring opportunities inside the first 20 minutes, but some excellent tackling and defensive awareness from Papua New Guinea – led by centre back Margaret Joseph – denied goals.

It was forward Hannah Blake – on route to winning the competition Golden Boot – who opened the scoring on 26 minutes when she got on the end of a cross and finished neatly.

Just eight minutes later Hand doubled the advantage with a cut-back and shot which left Papua New Guinea keeper Faith Kasiray with no hope.

New Zealand came racing out of the gates after half time, with Blake notching up a double with a 46th minute strike before Hand secured her hat-trick with goals in the 51st and 53rd minutes.

Some courageous saves from Kasiray stopped the score from blowing out even further as the final half hour approached, while at the other end Papua New Guinea were able to create a couple of good scoring chances off the back of some impressive pace from Belinda Giada.

But on the hour Papua New Guinea were caught ball watching, allowing Samantha Tawharu to get on the end of a cross and tap the ball in unopposed for a 6-0 lead.

With two minutes remaining in regulation time New Zealand captain Michaela Foster was played in behind the defence before finishing well on a tight angle.

A short time later Blake registered her hat-trick in the first minute of additional time to finish the scoring at 8-0.

While clearly disappointed with the result, which denied her team regional glory and a World Cup appearance in the same year their country hosts the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, Papua New Guinea coach Margaret Aka had no complaints post-match.

“It’s obviously not the result we wanted, but we came here and did our best against a very good New Zealand team,” Aka says.

“Early on we were able to defend well and keep them out, and I thought we did really well when we got the ball as well.

“I thought in the end some of our discipline in defence really cost us today, but that is a learning experience and we will grow from this.

“Well done to New Zealand, they played an awesome tournament and went through the whole thing without conceding a single goal, which is a huge achievement.”

At the conclusion of the match Blake was awarded the tournament Golden Boot for her haul of 14 goals, while Foster was given the Golden Ball as the player of the competition.

Other award winners were Francine Lockington, who won the Golden Gloves following a number of stellar performances in the net for Fiji, while hosts Cook Islands won the Fair Play Award.

Earlier in the day at the CIFA Academy, tournament newcomers Fiji overcame New Caledonia 3-2 in the 3/4 play-off, ensuring they leave Rarotonga with a medal.

Having already exceeded the expectations of many by qualifying through to the semi-finals, Fiji looked hungry for success right from the opening kick-off against New Caledonia.

Coach Yogendra Dutt cut a proud figure at full time.

“I am so happy for this group, we came over here for a top-four finish and the bronze medal is a bonus for us,” Dutt says.

“This will be a huge plus for women’s football in Fiji. I was very happy with what we achieved out there, the girls played with honour and made everyone very proud.

“Against New Caledonia we played like we were tired, we made some errors and weren’t perfect by any means, but we did enough to score more than them and hold on for a really good victory.”

Forward Cema Nasau opened the scoring after just five minutes, but the joy would be short lived as New Caledonia hit back six minutes later.

After beating her marker and cutting the ball back into space Katinka Takamatsu finished well around Fiji keeper Francine Lockington.

Some quality saves from the keepers at both ends kept the scores locked at 1-1, before Nasau outmuscled two markers to collect her double on 35 minutes.

The score would remain 2-1 for a long period into the second half, as both sides failed to put quality finishes on the end of some good build-up play and patience with the ball.

New Zealand have booked their spot at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Jordan 2016 in style after a convincing 8-0 victory over Papua New Guinea in the final of the 2016 OFC U-17 Women’s ChampionshipTakamatsu and Joelle Leme had a couple of chances to bring New Caledonia back, while at the other end Nasau continued to be a nuisance for the defence when she got the ball at her feet.

On 75 minutes a Fiji corner found its way into the back of the net via a New Caledonia player who misguided her headed clearance into the empty net.

That took the lead out to 3-1 for Fiji and seemed to knock some of the spark out of the New Caledonia side.

With two minutes remaining in regulation time Jackie Pahoa gave her side some renewed hope with a classy goal from a difficult angle, and at 3-2 it was now New Caledonia pushing forward with vigour.

After coming off the bench Jessica Ali Said very nearly turned hero for New Caledonia when she got through on goal in the 94th minute of play, only for it to be called back for offside.

In the end Fiji held on to claim the bronze medal, with New Caledonia coach Matthieu Delcroix admitting they were deserving winners on the day.

“I thought Fiji were better in terms of their aggressiveness, and overall they wanted to score more than us,” Delcroix says.

“Congratulations to Fiji, they played really well and were the superior team.

“We could have defended better and in the second half we came back and played some good football.

“But my players were very tired, they missed some opportunities because of that.”

source: OFC