28 Nov 2018

Sport: PNG, NZ expected to reach OFC Nations Cup final

2:19 pm on 28 November 2018

Papua New Guinea are confident of advancing to the OFC Women's Nations Cup football final.

The Lakatois have finished runners up to New Zealand at the past three regional championships.

PNG take on Fiji in the first semi final today in Mare after convincing victories against Samoa, New Caledonia and Tahiti in Kone gave them a perfect record in Group A.

Papua New Guinea have finished runners up in the past three OFC Women's Nations Cups.

Papua New Guinea have finished runners up in the past three OFC Women's Nations Cups. Photo: OFC via Phototek

PNG coach Peter Gunemba said they had proven themselves against tough opposition.

"I think our pool was the toughest pool because I have seen a lot of improvement from especially Samoa," he said.

"Samoa, Tahiti, New Caledonia they played very good football. The game against Tahiti was the toughest one. We didn't expect it... and when I compare all the games that we played I thought that Pool A was the toughest and I believe that that has given us much strength to go into the semi finals."

PNG and Fiji last met at the 2015 Pacific Games, when the hosts prevailed 5-1 in Port Moresby.

Gunemba is backing his team to beat their Melanesian rivals and progress to the decider.

"Yes, they have some strengths in there while I have come up with some strategies to play against them," he said.

"I have seen their weakness, I have seen their strengths and during the training yesterday and today I talked about it and I believe we will be ok against them and we are confident of winning the game."

Toti coach Peter Gunemba.

PNG coach Peter Gunemba. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Seiko Kurokawa

Fiji recorded big wins against Cook Islands and Tonga before a second-string team was thrashed 10-0 by New Zealand in the Group B decider.

Fiji coach Marika Rodu said his players were keen to create history.

"History says that we haven't beaten PNG in a long time. We want to change that," he said.

"We have a good pack of girls that can change this history. It's a matter of paying attention to the details of our game, believing in the philosophy and the vision of football we want to bring across."

35 year wait over

The other semi final is between defending champions New Zealand and hosts New Caledonia, who will go head to head in a senior women's international for the first time in 35 years.

After playing all three of their group games in the capital Noumea, the Football Ferns will face the hosts on the island of Lifou for a spot in the grand final.

New Zealand are yet to concede a goal in this year's tournament.

New Zealand are yet to concede a goal in this year's tournament. Photo: Avikash Chand / OFC Media

The team is flying to and from the island and playing the match all in one day, but forward Katie Rood said that hasn't been playing on their minds.

"We just try and focus on the things that we can control," she said.

"It's kind of out of our hands - we've just got to turn up and do the job on the pitch and we've got the players and capabilities to do that so that's what we've got to focus on."

The Football Ferns have been through a challenging few months, which included the resignation of former coach Andreas Heraf, but Rood said the players were loving life under new mentor Tom Sermanni.

"The more that I'm in it and playing alongside players that hopefully are also growing in confidence with me in the team definitely helps and just moving into my stride, less pressure," she said.

"It's a really easy-going environment with Tom in charge and the girls are all super chill so it's a great environment to kind of thrive in."

New Caledonia defeated Tahiti and Samoa either side of a 6-2 thumping by PNG to advance to their first Nations Cup semi final as runners-up in Group A.

"The way we played against Samoa was pleasing compared with the second match. The girls played with the ball as we know they can and which is what we needed them to do," head coach Kamali Fitialeata said.

"We don't know how things will go on Wednesday but for now the adventure continues and mentally we're in a good place," he said.

"It's definitely going to be hard for us but we'll try to do something with the players we have available because we don't quite have the same group which we began with."

The OFC Nations Cup winner will represent Oceania at next year's Women's World Cup in Japan and at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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