21 Nov 2018

Sport: PNG and New Caledonia eye Nations Cup bragging rights

1:04 pm on 21 November 2018

Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia put their perfect records on the line in tonight's OFC Women's Nations Cup football clash in Kone.

The PNG Lakatois thrashed Samoa 5-0 in their Group A opener on Sunday while New Caledonia beat Tahiti 4-2.

Papua New Guinea were impressive in their opening match against Samoa.

Papua New Guinea were impressive in their opening match against Samoa. Photo: OFC via Phototek

PNG coach Peter Gunemba was an interested observer in the stands for the latter game and said he had a few ideas to shut down the hosts goal-scoring threats.

"We will have come up with a strategy to counter their attacks and also in our defence - in our tackles I have seen some weakness that we can utilise that one," he said.

"It's always if the team is stronger it has to be in all departments."

Papua New Guinea vs New Caledonia also serves as a rematch of the 2011 and 2015 Pacific Games finals, in which PNG twice edged their regional rivals to claim the gold medal.

New Caledonia captain Celine Xolawawa was involved in both of those matches and is desperate to finish on the winning side for once.

"In 2015, we hoped to get our revenge because the loss on home soil was tough but to lose twice in a row was particularly difficult," she said.

"On top of that, in 2011 we beat them in the pool play but lost in the final - 2-0 in the group then a 1-0 loss in the final. It's still right there in the memory bank."

New Caledonia's Kamene Xowie celebrates scoring the opening goal.

New Caledonia's Kamene Xowie celebrates scoring the opening goal. Photo: OFC via Phototek

"We know it's a team which is incredibly aggressive, tall, strong, so we will take some hits I'm sure and the girls will have to remain calm, and we can't be scared of any contact...this is the match we can't lose."

"It's going to be an important match and they won't give anything up and we can't either."

"I'm sure the girls, both the old and the new, don't want a repeat of what we experienced in 2011 and 2015, we can't have any regrets so I think we'll give everything.

Peter Gunemba said it was also important to try and finish top of their group so they can avoid a semi final showdown against defending champions New Zealand.

"If we can win one of these (games against New Caledonia and Tahiti) and have a draw against the other that would be good for us," he said.

"Because no one wants to play New Zealand in the semi finals therefore we have to win so we will give our very best to avoid New Zealand in the semi finals."

Meanwhile Tahiti and Samoa kick off proceedings on Wednesday looking for redemption and to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Tahiti returned to senior women’s football after a seven-year lay-off.

Tahiti returned to senior women’s football after a seven-year lay-off. Photo: OFC via Phototek

In their tournament opener, Tahiti narrowed a 3-0 deficit against New Caledonia to just 3-2 and came within an inch of scoring the equaliser before the hosts scored a decisive fourth goal.

Coach Stéphanie Spielmann is determined to turn some of the opportunity and potential her side possesses into results.

"We're staying positive. There are still two matches to go and we need to focus on that next match against Samoa straight away," she said.

"What I've done is try to explain that we're in a competition and in a competition, you have to step it up. We play football well, there's some really interesting elements in the team, but we have to fight."

Samoa coach Nicola Demaine has selected a young and inexperienced team and was encouraged by aspects of their performance against PNG.

"There was some execution lacking in the tactic, which three weeks together of course they're going to forget some things on the field but they were able to step it up in the second half and that's positive," she said.

"We'll be looking at what we did well and what we can perhaps work on, we'll also look at Tahiti's game and come back with a new plan and hopefully turn it around a little bit."