For the first time in the 43-year history of this competition, Papua New Guinea will compete in the final of Oceania’s most prestigious competition against a side that has been there five times before – and successful four of them.
It’s a big ask for the amateur side but coach Flemming Serritslev has been through it all before and believes the side has the talent and mental strength to do well.
“I think we are well prepared as we can be for this match. For sure it will be different for our players to suddenly be playing in front of such a big crowd but I’ve been speaking to the boys about it,” Serritslev says.
“They have to be confident with themselves, they have to believe in themselves and they have actually shown for me a good style here so why shouldn’t they believe in themselves?
“Of course we’re facing a very tough opponent in New Zealand and it will be tough for us, but hopefully we can make it a bit tough on New Zealand too.”
And there is no expectation that it will be an easy ride for the All Whites as they chase their fifth Oceania title.
The side is without Chris Wood, their captain and leading goal scorer in Port Moresby which in itself is a loss.
But they’ll also be missing key defender Themistoklis Tzimopoulos and midfielder Luka Prelevic to suspension, two players who have made starts in three of the four matches they’ve had at Sir John Guise Stadium which gives some indication of the gap they will leave.
While those absences are a talking point, coach Anthony Hudson believes the squad has the depth required to secure passage to the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017.
“He left, the mood has not changed,” Hudson says of Wood’s departure.
“I think if anything it’s made us stronger, it’s galvanised the squad. We’ve won without Woodsy before, even in this tournament.
“We’re in a very good place, everyone is healthy, strong, fit, recovered. So we’re in general looking forward to a good game.”
New Zealand’s results haven’t wowed fans back home, with just one goal margins seeing them past the Solomon Islands and New Caledonia.
However, they are a squad which has depth and talent in its ranks and Hudson has plenty of experience to call on too.
Rory Fallon has been relishing his return to international duty making appearances all over the park, and with him taking the captain’s armband for the final he’s sure to be further buoyed to snag further on-field glory.
There is no doubt this will be a memorable occasion for both sides and their fans when it gets underway at Sir John Guise Stadium tomorrow.
The OFC would like to acknowledge its partners Telikom PNG, iRENA, and its supporters Dream Inn, Tru Tru Wara and NCDC – The City of Port Moresby.
New Zealand vs. Papua New Guinea
Sir John Guise Stadium
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Saturday 11 June, 2016
Referee: Norbert HAUATA (TAH)
Assistant Referee 1: Tevita MAKASINI (TGA)
Assistant Referee 2: Philippe REVEL (TAH)
Fourth Official: Kader ZITOUNI (TAH)
Reserve Assistant Referee: Ravinesh KUMAR (FIJ)
The players: Stefan Marinovic was outstanding against New Caledonia and his quick thinking and reactions were essential in keeping Les Cagous scoreless. He will play an essential role against the quick, powerful and accurate Papua New Guinea strikers.
The vital statistic: From 53 attempts on goal during this competition New Zealand has had 25 have been on target, an average of 47.2 per cent which is one of the highest of the tournament – behind Papua New Guinea. Only Marinovic and defender Luke Adams have played every minute of every match so far for the All Whites.
Coach Quote: “For me, similar to other teams in this competition, I think the best ones are up front. They’re athletic and they can hurt you so they’ve definitely got some ability there. I think they’re a strong team and it’s going to be a tough game.
Squad list: 1. Stefan MARINOVIC (GK), 2. Kip COLVEY, 3. Mat RIDENTON, 5. Michael BOXALL, 6. Bill TUILOMA, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Michael McGLINCHEY, 11. Marco ROJAS, 12. Max CROCOMBE (GK), 13. Monty PATTERSON, 14. Rory FALLON, 15. Jeremy BROCKIE, 16. Louis FENTON, 17. Luke ADAMS, 18. Sam BROTHERTON, 20. Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 21. Logan ROGERSON, 22. Moses DYER, 23. Tamati WILLIAMS (GK)
Suspended: 4. Themistoklis TZIMOPOULOS, 10. Luka PRELEVIC
Absent: 9. Chris WOOD, 19. Thomas DOYLE
Coach: Anthony HUDSON (ENG)
Papua New Guinea
The players: Defender Koriak Upaiga is a hard man to get past at the back, and it’s not much fun when you’re a defender and he’s running fast at you in an attempt to get on the scoreboard. A solid all-rounder Upaiga is fit and fast and will provide no end of entertaining football for fans. Raymond Gunemba has been in fine form making carefully weighted passes for his teammates while also finding time to terrorise them a bit himself.
The vital statistics: Papua New Guinea have beaten New Zealand just once before, a 1-0 win in 1997 in their maiden World Cup campaign. Papua New Guinea have had 99 attempts on goal – twice as much as New Zealand. However almost half of them were from their 8-0 victory over Samoa. Seven players have played the full 90 minutes in all four of Papua New Guinea’s matches so far.
Coach Quote: “If you can say we’ve had a bit of success it’s actually because of the way the players are treating each other. I’ve never had such a committed team as I’ve had here in Papua New Guinea.”
Squad list: 1. Ishmael POLE, (GK), 2. Daniel JOE, 3. Valentine NELSON, 4. Alwin KOMOLONG, 5. Felix KOMOLONG, 6. Patrick AISA, 7. Raymond GUNEMBA, 8. Michael FOSTER, 9. Nigel DABINGYABA, 10. Obert BIKA, 11. Wira WAMA, 12. David MUTA, 13. Roland BALA, 14. Emmanuel SIMON, 15. Philip STEVEN, 16. Jeremy YASASA, 17. Jacob SABUA, 18. Tommy SEMMY, 19 Koriak UPAIGA, 20. Ronald WARISAN, (GK) 21. Sammie CAMPBELL, 22. Otto KUSUNAN, 23. Leslie KALAI (GK)
Coach: Flemming SERRITSLEV (DEN)
Story courtesy of OFC. For more on OFC Nations Cup 2016 visit www.oceaniafootball.com