Tonga will face Papua New Guinea in the day’s first match at 1:00pm before Samoa square off against Vanuatu at 3:30pm. The final pair of group games will take place on Monday before the 3rd place play-off and final will conclude the Stage 1 tournament on Wednesday 7 March.
Here’s a look at the action that’s in store tomorrow.
Tonga vs. Papua New Guinea – 1:00pm, Saturday 3 March
The clash between the hosts and the favourites has long been billed as the key match of the Olympic qualifying tournament and there is no doubt that tomorrow’s encounter will go a long way towards identifying the finalists. The top two teams in the four-nation competition will earn the opportunity to contest Wednesday’s final and Tonga and Papua New Guinea both gave themselves a good chance of being those sides with strong performances on the opening day. Pacific Games champions Papua New Guinea were particularly impressive in dismantling Samoa 7-2 but Tonga also flexed their attacking muscles with a 5-2 triumph over Vanuatu. Striker Piuinga Feke wasted little time in posting the tournament’s first hat-trick and Papua New Guinea coach Steven Mune will look to find a way of closing her down without stifling his side’s own offensive instincts. Mune is also wary of the physical nature of Tonga’s play after seeing the hosts use their superior size and strength to out-muscle Vanuatu. He has history on his side as Papua New Guinea have had the wood over Tonga in both of their recent meetings. The pair did battle in the 2007 Pacific Games final and during group play at the OFC Women’s Nations Cup in 2010 with Papua New Guinea winning both matches, by 3-1 and 3-0 margins respectively.
In their own words
“Papua New Guinea have a good record but I think my girls will give them a very hard game. The home crowd is a big boost and I think the more people who can come out to support them the better they will play.” – Lui Muavesi, Tonga coach
“This will be our toughest group match. We need to play possession football against Tonga because we are not as strong physically. I was impressed with how our midfield played in the first match so if they can keep that up then I’m confident we will win.” – Steven Mune, Papua New Guinea coach
Samoa vs. Vanuatu – 3:30pm, Saturday 3 March
This fixture is in danger of being overshadowed by the day’s earlier eagerly-anticipated match but there is just as much riding on it as both sides need a good result to remain in contention for a final berth. Less experienced than both Papua New Guinea and Tonga, these two sides have not been sighted often on the international stage in recent years and paid for that inactivity on the opening day with their heavy defeats. Vanuatu’s two goals in the Tonga loss mean they have already bettered the record of their previous international tournament showing – an OFC Women’s Nations Cup campaign in 2010 that yielded no points and just one goal – and tomorrow’s match offers their best chance of increasing that tally. Florian Sam’s side struggled to deal with the physical approach of Tonga and Samoa will provide a similar challenge as they likewise hold the edge over Vanuatu in that area. History throws up few clues as to the possible outcome as Samoa and Vanuatu have never met in a competitive match, meaning the stage is set for the players in each team to write themselves into the record books tomorrow.
In their own words
“I think we have a chance in this match. Vanuatu like to play the offside trap but they’re not very fast at the back. We have some quick strikers so if we can control the game in the middle and feed them good ball then we should get opportunities.” – Tala Saveaalii, Samoa coach
“We did not do so well physically against Tonga and there are some injuries in the squad. But now we know the kind of contact to expect and I think we will be better prepared. The girls fought back in the first match to score two goals and it is that kind of attitude I hope to see in the second match.” – Florian Sam, Vanuatu coach