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World Cup path laid out for U-20 sides

The OFC Under 20 Championship will be staged in Auckland, New Zealand from April 21 to 29. To face the world’s best young players in Colombia, the Oceania representative must first win the OFC U-20 Championship 2011. The seven sides will compete in two groups, one consisting of four teams and the other made up of three, before the top two sides in each group square off in the semi finals on Wednesday 27 April.

The 3rd/4th playoff and grand final will be held on Friday 29 April.

Papua New Guinea will be in Group A includes together with Fiji, Vanuatu and American Samoa while Group B consists of Solomon Islands, New Zealand and New Caledonia. There will be three days of action in the group stages and each day will feature three games. The teams in both groups will play each other once, with those in Group B also having one bye.

The official draw was held at OFC headquarters in the presence of OFC Technical Director Patrick Jacquemet, OFC Head of Competitions David Firisua and other OFC staff.

The total number of seven teams is an increase on the four that took part in the last edition of the OFC U-20 Championship in 2008. Lining up on that occasion were hosts Tahiti, New Caledonia, New Zealand and Fiji and the results did not go according to expectations, the Tahitians upsetting favourites New Zealand and runners-up New Caledonia to book their first ever appearance at a FIFA World Cup.

They lost all of their group matches at the event, held in Egypt during 2009, but their mere presence proved it is possible for Pacific nations outside of New Zealand to compete on the world stage. Tahiti’s qualifying success in 2008 will serve as an inspiration to those hoping to emulate them next month in Auckland.

Tahiti will not get the chance to defend their title as they are not involved in this year’s tournament, meaning the favourites tag will revert back to hosts New Zealand. But New Caledonia will have been encouraged by their second-place finish last time and the likes of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands will also harbour realistic hopes of qualifying for the World Cup.

Recent OFC tournaments have been held at Auckland’s North Harbour Stadium and OFC General Secretary Tai Nicholas is delighted to be taking this year’s U-20 championship to a new ground.

“Centre Park has recently undergone major development and is an ideal venue for a tournament of this kind,” he says. “It’s location at the heart of South Auckland – an area with a relatively large Pacific Island population – will ensure the games are easily accessible and well supported.”

The winner of the OFC U-20 Championship will represent Oceania at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, which takes place in Colombia from July 29 to August 20.

OFC U-20 Championship New Zealand 2011

Group A:
Fiji
Papua New Guinea
Vanuatu
American Samoa

Group B:
Solomon Islands
New Zealand
New Caledonia

Fixtures:

Match Day 1, Thursday 21 April
Vanuatu vs. American Samoa
New Caledonia vs. Solomon Islands
Fiji vs. Papua New Guinea
BYE: New Zealand

Match Day 2, Saturday 23 April
Fiji vs. Vanuatu
American Samoa vs. Papua New Guinea
Solomon Islands vs. New Zealand
BYE: New Caledonia

Match Day 3, Monday 25 April
Fiji vs. American Samoa
Papua New Guinea vs. Vanuatu
New Zealand vs. New Caledonia
BYE: Solomon Islands

Match Day 4, Wednesday 27 April
B1 vs. A2
A1 vs. B2

Match Day 5, Friday 29 April
3rd vs. 4th Play-off
Grand Final

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