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Last chance saloon for NZ and PNG

With a win and a loss each so far New Zealand and Papua New Guinea have one last chance to qualify for the OFC U-16 Championship semi-finals when they meet in their final Group A match tomorrow morning.

Following their shock 5-0 loss to Solomon Islands, defending champions New Zealand are aiming to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and go out on Saturday and secure their place in the semi-finals.

Going down by such a large margin certainly wasn’t what coach Jose Figueira expected going into the game against Solomon Islands and he admitted it was a massive learning experience for both him and his charges.

“I think we’ll take a massive learning experience from this match and hopefully it will kick us on for the rest of the tournament,” he said.

Figueira said Solomon Islands were an impressive force to face but his team didn’t help themselves either with decision making and passing the first to fall by the wayside.

However, he is confident the squad will rebound and come back with a strong desire to get the result they need to progress to the semi-finals.

“I think we can expect something similar from Papua New Guinea,” Figueria said.

“They’ll be going into the game knowing they’ve got something to play for as well, and we have just got to make sure we get back to the drawing board, get back to what we are good at, review the game and learn from the mistakes – and there were quite a few of them.

“I’m sure the boys will be eager to bounce back and qualify out of the group for the semi-final.

Having bounced back from an opening defeat of their own against Solomon Islands, Anthony Pakakota’s side know to be weary of a wounded New Zealand.

However they too are keen to continue their positive form and make a bid for a place in the semi-finals alongside the hosts.

One of the key areas the coach worked on with his squad following the 5-0 defeat in their first match was building up the players’ confidence and having witnessed them knock five goals in against Vanuatu Pakakota believes that was achieved.

Looking organised and determined, Papua New Guinea ran rings around Vanuatu and could potentially have scored even more had goalkeeper Brendon Tankon been having an off day.

Pakakota said the side is ready for the challenge of taking on New Zealand and have been inspired by the efforts of the Solomon Islands.

“For sure we’re ready for New Zealand and we’re looking forward to it,” he said.

“The game against Vanuatu was a must win to give us a fighting chance and now we’re looking forward to the next one.

“New Zealand is a fast transitional team and we’ve prepared well for them.”

In the day’s second match, and the final one of the group, Solomon Islands will take on Vanuatu in a meeting of two sides whose fortunes in this competition could not have been more different.

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