PNG withdrawal eases New Zealand’s path to FIFA U-17 World Cup

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New Zealand’s bid to qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru has been helped by the withdrawal of Papua New Guinea from the OFC U-17 Championship due to start on January 11.

The exit of PNG from the 17-day tournament in Fiji means only nine countries will take part, with the two finalists automatically qualifying for the World Cup in November.

PNG were originally drawn in Group A for the OFC tournament but The Fiji Times says they failed to submit their registration on time.

The tournament draw at the OFC website no longer includes PNG.

The withdrawal means Fiji, Samoa and Tonga will play in a three-team group, with all three potentially going through to the quarter-finals.

Of the nine participating countries, eight will go through to the knockout stages.

Fiji coach Sunil Kumar told The Fiji Times:

“This is our chance. We are not being over-confident but the home crowd support and the opportunity at hand can only inspire us.

“We will take each game at a time. We only have two pool games and then wait who we face in the quarters.

“Our aim is to reach the final and once that is done we know our spot at the World Cup is secured.”

The draw

Group A: Fiji, Samoa, Tonga.

Group B: New Zealand, New Caledonia, American Samoa.

Group C: Tahiti, Vanuatu, Cook Islands.

The winners and runners-up from each pool and the two highest-ranked third-placed teams will advance to the quarter-finals.

Defending champions New Zealand will play New Caledonia in the opening game of the tournament on January 11.

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New Zealand fixtures

Game to be played on Wednesday January 11, 2023

New Zealand v New Caledonia
Fiji FA Academy, Ba (4pm, NZT)

Game to be played on Saturday January 14, 2023

New Zealand v American Samoa
Fiji FA Academy, Ba (4pm, NZT)


The tournament will run from January 11-28, 2023.

Quarter-finals: January 21-22.

Semi-finals: January 25.

Final: January 28.

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