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PNG look to meet NZ in Olympic Qualifiers

The Steven Mune coached team start as favourites after Fiji withdrew from the tournament.

New Caledonia, who are the Pacific Games silver medalists, will also not take part. The tournament will run from March 1- 7 and the winner will play top-sead New Zealand in a home-and- away play- off scheduled for March 31st a dn April 4th.

PNG’s only otyher threat in the tournament is Tonga, who also competed in the 2011 Pacific Games.

That tournament could not be used as the Olympic qualifiers on this occasion due to the participation of Guam, a non OFC member.

Tonga are expected to promote a decent challenge and will be keen to put on a good show at home.

Samoa have not taken part part in an international tournament since the 2007 Pacific Games., an event which doubled as stage on of the qualifiers for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The Tongan line up has a more youthful look but still contains players who ahve previously tasted international football – at OFC age-group or senior tournaments – and they will not be short on confidence after an impressive showing at the Pacific Games.

Tonga reached the semi- finals where they were narrowly beaten by hosts New Caledonia , and anything less than a final berth in the Olympic Qualfiers will be a disappointment to coach Loi Muavesi.

Of the four teams, Vanuatu is the only country making its debut at this level while PNG have one of the most experienced teams on paper.

The favourism of PNG is due to their title win in Noumea- a record breaking thired gold medal in a row – and coach Mune has kept the majority of that squad together while making a handful of new additions.

Eleven players remain from the triumphant Pacific Games group and their experience makes Mune charges the most match- hardened of the sides.

Vanuatu and Samoa are the tournament’s underdogs as, aside from several sporadic friendly matches, neither side has been active on the international scene in recent months.

Vanuatu did compete at the 2010 OFC Nations Cup though and the lessons learned from the campaigns- which resulted in three losses and the scoring of only one goal – should prove invaluable in Tonga.

Eight of those players remain in the squad and coach Florian Sam, formerly an accomplished player himself at club level in New Caledonia will look to them to provide the impetus for Vanuatu’s challenge.

Stage one of the women’s Olympic Qualifiers will consist of two matches per day on the March 1st, 2nd and 5th, with kick-offs set at 1pm and 3:30pm (local time).

The 3rd/4th play-off and final take place on March 7, also kickin off at 1pm and 3:30pm respectively. he winner of stage two will qualify for the Women’s Football Tournament at the London Olympics.

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