Two teams “unable to play” at the OFC U-19 Championship are blaming travel issues for the disruption caused to the tournament.
Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea failed to play their opening group games at the tournament in Tahiti, and have had 3-0 default losses recorded against them.
And the second round of games involving both teams did not go ahead on Monday (NZT) and a decision is pending on whether the games will still be played or also treated as defaults.
New Zealand lead Group A at the 11-national tournament and need to reach the final to qualify for next year’s FIFA U-20 Men’s World Cup in Indonesia.
Main photo: The New Zealand team before their 8-0 win against Cook Islands.
Tournament organisers have given no explanations for why Vanuatu and PNG have not played their opening two games, leading to speculation.
The Vanuatu Football Federation blames travel visa problems for their side not getting to Tahiti in time for their opening game against New Caledonia.
Vanuatu’s Football For All site said:
“The team could not travel as initially planned on the September 3rd due to a absence of New Zealand transit visas. The only visas received were entry approvals for Tahiti. The NZ entry approvals did not arrive in time.
“A rescheduled flight was made for 7th September, however, they could not board due to the absence of NZ transit visas.”
The site said VFF tried to charter Air Vanuatu to avoid visa issues but were not successful.
The Papua New Guinea national body’s Facebook page said their team was leaving late for Tahiti due to the “same problem” as faced by Vanuatu.
“It will be a non-stop travelling for the young soccer players will see them see four different places on their way to Tahiti due to tight booking schedules by airline operators,” the Facebook post said.
PNG’s 21-man team would travel from Port Moresby to Brisbane and then to Fiji before flying to Auckland and then heading to Papeete, Tahiti.
The following are how the groups look before any decision is made on unplayed games in Group’s B and C for day two fixtures:
The game between Fiji and Tonga went ahead on Monday (NZT). resulting in a 3-0 win by Fiji.
Wednesday September 14 (1pm NZT): New Zealand v Solomon Islands
The group winners and runners-up from each group will progress to the quarter-final stage, as well as the two highest-ranked third-placed teams.
Q1: Winner Group A v Best performed 3rd team from B/C
Q2: Winner Group B v Best performed 3rd team from A/C
Q3: Winner Group C v Runners-up Group A
Q4: Runners-up Group B v Runners-up Group C
Winners Q1 v Winners Q2
Winners Q3 v Winners Q4
About the OFC U-19 Championship
New Zealand have won the championship at seven of the 22 previous tournaments.
New Zealand are the current title holders, having won in 2018, the last time the championship was held.