Papua New Guinea men’s national team coach Flemming Serritslev has praised the U-17 side following their historic 2-1 win over Tahiti at the OFC U-17 Championship and hopes their success can spur his own side to achieve the same result next month.
The victory secured Papua New Guinea a place in the semi-finals and a shot at one of the two places available to Oceania teams at the FIFA U-17 World Cup to be held in India later this year.
“For me it’s a great result for football, and it shows that we have a very bright future in this country, we have to develop it much more, but it shows that the raw talent is there.”
“You have to keep in mind that Tahiti was playing on home soil, so of course we would like to achieve the same result as the U-17’s,” said Serritslev.
Serritslev said it was too early to judge if any of the U-17 players were ready to make the step up to the senior national team but confirmed that if they were good enough they were old enough.
“I’ve watched all of the highlights available so far and I have been impressed by some of our players, who are physically well-developed already at this young age, but it would be extraordinary for that to happen, and they would have to be an extraordinary talent.”
“If there are any players to join our squad it would be first to get used to the speed and the playing style and philosophy we have.”
“My job now is to make sure that these young players have something to aspire to with the senior national team. “The next step is the U-20 national team and then the U-23 national team for the Olympics in Tokyo, but at the end of the day, the ultimate goal for every player is to play for the men’s national team,” said Serritslev.
The Danish national was looking forward to sitting down with U-17 head coach Harrison Kamake on his return to Papua New Guinea and hearing about the Tahiti experience as he prepares for his own home-and-away matches with the Francophone side.
“I’m sure there are some things about Tahiti on and off the pitch that we can learn from Harrison and I have a few questions but they can wait until after the U-17 campaign.”
“I’ve seen that the pitches in Tahiti don’t look as good as what we now have here in Papua New Guinea, so I’d like to know what the training pitches are like.”
“I know what it’s like to prepare for a big match, so I will leave him for now and simply wish the team all the very best for the semi-final,” said Serritslev.
Serritslev is no stranger to facing New Zealand in a crucial encounter having seen his side lose on penalties in the OFC Nations Cup last year and offered Kamake and the players some advice leading into the semi-final.
“The most important is you enter every match without any fear of your opponent. You must respect every opponent, but you do not fear them. Before our final against New Zealand I told our players if you fear New Zealand we have already lost.”
“We have every chance to achieve a great result here. It’s very important that you have this confidence no matter how strong you think your opponent is across the pitch. I know that New Zealand is viewed as the big brother in Oceania, but water also boils at 100 degrees there just like it does here in Papua New Guinea,” said Serritslev.
Papua New Guinea face New Zealand at 3pm (PNG time) tomorrow with the winner advancing to the final of the OFC U-17 Championship against either New Caledonia or the Solomon Islands on Saturday.
The two semi-finals winners will also qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 to be held in October this year.