The Young Football Ferns celebrate their title win.
Photo: OFC via Phototek
The Cook Islands also finished the tournament on a high by beating New Caledonia 3-0 to take third place and leave Les Cagous with the wooden spoon.
But it was the second match of the afternoon that drew the most attention as the clash between the hosts and Papua New Guinea - the side expected to provide the toughest challenge to New Zealand’s title defence – was essentially a final with World Cup glory on offer for the victors.
The teams went into the vital meeting tied on points after two wins apiece but any worries Young Ferns coach Paul Temple may have had of a tense finale were banished by half-time as a pair of doubles – to 14-year-old Daisy Cleverley and Hannah Carlsen – supplemented an early Megan Lee strike to put them 5-0 up.
Papua New Guinea coach Frederica Apeh would have aimed to keep the Kiwis scoreless for as long as possible but that plan went out the window almost straight from kick-off when Lee finished off a Jasmine Pereira cross from close range. That made an already tough task even tougher for Papua New Guinea and they showed few signs of being able to get back into the game as New Zealand embarked on another goal rampage to go with their earlier defeats of Cook Islands, 7-0, and New Caledonia, 13-1.
Carlsen completed her hat-trick while Pereira joined Cleverley in notching a brace and Emma Rolston also got her name on the scoresheet.
“We’re looking forward to going to Azerbaijan and we’ll see what the draw presents for us,” Temple said.
“Hopefully, we’ll get some more international games in before we go. If we get a nice draw and a good group then I hope we can do something special over there. We’ll be playing the best teams in the world and it’s going to be really competitive but we are building and have shown some good football so far, so I really believe in the players and have confidence in them.”
There was not a World Cup place on offer in the day’s other match but Cook Islands and New Caledonia had plenty to play for nonetheless. Neither had picked up a point so far this week and were thus battling to avoid the wooden spoon and take some sort of success back home with them. It was Cook Islands who managed to do so after goals from Mona Taio, Lee Maoate-Cox and captain Tepaeru Toka gave them the memorable victory – their first ever in this tournament.
Taio’s opener in the eighth minute had a touch of fortune about it as New Caledonia goalkeeper Cinthia Paita somehow let the low shot slip through her grasp and Cook Islands’ second also arrived in unusual fashion.
A penalty was awarded in the 71st minute for a foul by New Caledonia captain Wakalane Ngaiohni, back from suspension after being sent off in the opening day defeat to Papua New Guinea, and Toka assumed responsibility for the spot kick. The skipper failed to score but the penalty was ordered to be retaken by referee Gerald Oiaka and no mistake was made with the second attempt, taken this time by Maoate-Cox.
Toka redeemed herself in style in the 77th minute though, bending a spectacular effort just inside the far post from an acute angle near the byline to make sure of the historic victory.
“The win is great for the girls and good for Cook Islands football, so onwards and upwards from here,” coach Angela Valamaka said. “Let’s hope we can keep up the development of these players and that they can progress through to the U-20 and senior national teams.”
New Caledonia coach Kamalie Fitialeata was disappointed to be leaving Auckland with no points but said the events leading up to today’s game did not go in his side’s favour.
“It has been a hard tournament for us,” he said. “A person close to some of the players passed away two days ago and our number one goalkeeper couldn’t play today as she injured her ankle earlier in the week. That is the difficult reality of football sometimes.”
In the individual stakes, Pereira and Carlsen shared the Golden Boot while fellow Young Fern Briar Palmer was named player of the tournament and Moeroa Nootai from Cook Islands received the Golden Gloves as best goalkeeper. As well as their title win, New Zealand also received the Fair Play Award.
Cook Islands vs New Caledonia Match Summary: Download Here
Papua New Guinea vs New Zealand Match Summary: Download Here
Competition Summary: Download Here