With three wins under their belt, New Zealand are on track for their seventh consecutive appearance at a FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, but with Papua New Guinea hot on their trail – and Fiji and New Caledonia close behind – the defending champions’ day 4 encounter is a must-win.
Kicking off at 10am this Friday, New Zealand will meet a determined Samoa, who are still vying for their first win of the competition. Although New Zealand have sunk 33 goals in the competition already, the 2015 runners-up have only conceded four – the second lowest after the Kiwis – and could prove New Zealand’s biggest challenge yet.
Although Samoa are now out of contention for France 2018, coach Martin Tamasese is looking forward to giving New Zealand a good run for their money.
“We’re prepared for our game against New Zealand,” he said.
“We have a few things we need to work on but we still want to compete with them and have the least goals scored against us. We don’t want them scoring more goals against us than other teams.”
With only two matches standing between them and the World Cup, New Zealand coach Gareth Turnbull is feeling confident about securing another important win but hopes to see his players focus on areas that need improvement throughout the encounter as they try to lift to World Cup standards.
“We’re expecting to get three points if we’re honest,” he said.
“We need more opportunities on our final acts, in our finishing and also to take a step forward in our physical game.
“I thought we were better in that on Monday than the first two games, but it’s certainly those that are the main areas we’ll be looking towards.”
With their France 2018 dreams only one New Zealand win away from being diminished, New Caledonia are now focusing on winning one game at a time and finishing as high on the table as they can.
Coach Kamali Fitialeata is looking forward to a close contest against Tonga, but with fatigue and injury plaguing his team, he is well aware that challenging their physical opponents will be a tough assignment.
“Even though I think Tonga have some things to work on, I watched their game against Fiji and they tried to do some good things,” he said.
“I think the game will be a bit closer to our level, however we have a couple of injuries that have me a bit worried so hopefully those girls will recover over the next few days.”
Sitting at the bottom of the table, Tonga are still determined to continue their battle and coach Christian Koaneti is feeling confident about scoring against New Caledonia goal after the Francophones’ 12-0 defeat to New Zealand on Monday.
“I’m feeling pretty confident. What do we have to lose, we only have two more matches to go and we’ve had three days to get ready for New Caledonia,” he said.
“We need to improve on our possession game, particularly in attack. We managed to sneak through some counter attacking chances in our last game against Papua New Guinea but we didn’t finish the job.”
Fiji will once again wrap up the day of action when they take on Papua New Guinea at 3pm, and although Fiji coach Saroj Kumar is looking forward to another whole-hearted performance from his team, he believes there is still plenty of room for improvement in the final third.
“We’re feeling confident”, he said.
“We’ll try to work on our finishing. Our build up and our middle part is good but we need some finishing touches so that we can score more goals.”
Although a win for Papua New Guinea would keep them on New Zealand’s tail in the race for France 2018, coach Rachel Wadunah is focusing on the match in front of her and preparing her side for a neck-and-neck battle as they defend their second-place standing against Fiji.
“It will be like the New Zealand game where we will sit deep and compact in the middle and when we have chances to counter attack we will push forward to score,” she said.
“We have to work on our clearances at the back and also making sure that they get back and defend on the wings. Those are the main things we have to work on in preparation for the game against Fiji on Friday.”
Fiji vs. Papua New Guinea
Auckland, New Zealand
Friday 21 July
Vital Statistics: Fiji need both Papua New Guinea and New Zealand to lose in Match Day 4 for their France 2018 qualification campaign to continue.
The Players: Asenaca Diranuve kept Samoa’s backline and goalkeeper busy with well-calculated runs into the box and some dangerous attempts at goal in their Monday encounter. The 17-year-old covered a lot of ground when her side went down to 10 men, tracking back and covering the mid-field when Samoa was in possession, then making a quick transition to counter attack.
Coach Quote: “We’ll try to work on our finishing. Our build up and our middle part is good but we need some finishing touches so that we can score more goals.”
Fiji: 1. Ateca TUWAI (GK), 2. Cecelia NAINIMA, 3. Mereoni TORA, 4. Sekola WAQANIDROLA, 5. Veniana RANADI, 6. Ledua SENISEA, 7. Koleta LIKUCULACULA, 8. Timaima VUNIYAYAWA, 9. Asenaca DIRANUVE, 10. Luisa TAMANITOAKULA, 11. Cema NASAU, 12. Silina QARAWAQA, 13. Louisa SIMMONS, 14. Miriama BAKANICEVA, 15. Maca RALAGI, 16. Aliza HUSSEIN, 17. Miliana BUREITAU, 18. Cynthia DUTT, 19. Laca TIKOSAYA, 20. Maria PARR (GK)
Coach: Saroj KUMAR (FIJ)
Papua New Guinea
Vital Statistics: Two strong wins for Papua New Guinea have seen the nation make an impressive climb from bottom of the standings on Match Day 1 to runners-up on Match Day 4, but a win on Friday will be crucial for the Melanesians’ France 2018 qualification campaign.
The Players: Jacklyn Maiyosi was unfortunate not to find the back of the net in Papua New Guinea’s previous encounter after creating effective combinations with Nicollete Ageva and Selina Unamba up front. The three read each other’s movements well and always look to offer options in the attacking third.
Coach Quote: “We have to work on our clearances at the back and also making sure that they get back and defend on the wings. Those are the main things we have to work on in preparation for the game against Fiji on Friday.”
Papua New Guinea: 1. Faith KASIRAY (GK), 2. Natasha SAGEM, 3. Margret JOSEPH, 4. Isabella NATERA, 5. Bridget PAIME, 7. Marity SEP, 8. Alison PAULIAS, 9. Selina UNAMBA, 10. Nicollete AGEVA, 12. Belinda GIADA, 13. Ramona PADIO, 14. Leah KARO, 16. Serah TAMGOL, 17. Melisa JOFARI, 18. Jacklyn MAIYOSI, 19. Gorethy PAOFA, 20. Amatha MISTERA
Coach: Rachel Wadunah (PNG)