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PNG U-17 ready to go

The Papua New Guinea U-17 women’s squad have their eyes set on advancing past the group stage at the OFC U-17 Women’s Championship.

Coach Margaret Aka is confident her team will be ready to take on all comers at the tournament in Rarotonga, Cook Islands.

The 20-women squad flew out this week, with Aka saying the level of preparation for the tournament had surpassed what had been done in the past.

The U-17 squad are mostly made up of players from the U-15 team that Aka took to the 2014 Youth Olympics.

PNG will face strong challenges from Group B opponents Fiji, Vanuatu and hosts Cook Islands.

Group A has the tournament heavyweights New Zealand and New Caledonia, along with Samoa and Tonga.

“The bulk of the players are the girls that we took in 2014 to the Youth Olympics but we have to be mindful of their current form,” Aka said.

“The new players have gelled well with the core of the squad and we’re all sure we will perform.

“It will be interesting to see where the girls are in their development as players and as a team.”

She said her hope was that they could mold the team into an effective representative unit and that the U-17 tournament would provide them with the best opportunity to test their mettle against others in the region.

Aka said she was grateful to be retained as coach and that was part of developing a strong and stable side.

Fixtures: Group B – Thursday January 14 – PNG vs Vanuatu; Saturday January 16 – PNG vs Cook Islands; Monday January 18 – PNG vs Fiji; Semifinals – Thursday January 21; Final -Saturday January 23.

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