13 Jan 2015

Sport: Oceania U17 football champs to begin in Samoa

12:09 pm on 13 January 2015

The Oceania Under 17 football championships get underway in Apia on Tuesday, with 11 teams vying for the chance to qualify for the World Cup in Chile later this year.

Hosts Samoa have brought in several overseas-based players from New Zealand and Canada to complement their locals but face a tough start against 2013 runners-up New Caledonia in the tournament opener.

The Cook Islands team is hoping to show improvement from 2013, where they failed to win a match.

Their squad is made up entirely of players based full-time in the Cook Islannds and has been training together since February.

First up for them is Papua New Guinea and coach Delaney Yaqona says they hope to learn from previous experiences.

"Well all we've got about that side is what happened in the last tournament that our team qualified for, because our Cook Islands team did play PNG. From what I saw it was an even game - it was just that our team tended to push up a bit too much and it's one thing we don't want to do in this tournament. We've got a system of staying nice and compact and then just see what the team that we're playing against throws at us and then just adjust from there and go from there".

In the late game Fiji face an unenviable start against defending champs and overwhelming favourites New Zealand.

Fiji coach Kamal Swamy admits they will be up against it.

"This is the first time we have got these boys together so we're not expecting them to do great but we are expecting them to learn what we have taught them and we will go out there and prove a point that we are working and we play football. Most probably we will be working on putting all players behind the ball to counter attack".

Group B action begins in Pago Pago tomorrow with hosts American Samoa taking on Vanuatu and Solomon Islands to face Tonga first up.

The top two sides from each group will advance to the semi finals.