New Zealand need to beat Fiji on Saturday to clinch their qualification to next year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
This follows the team’s 5-0 win against Cook Islands in the semi-final of the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship in Fiji.
The victory pitches New Zealand in the tournament final on Saturday against the host nation who beat Samoa 3- at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva.
Cook Islands, who overcame Vanuatu in the Quarter-Finals, enjoyed an incredible run to the final four at the tournament, and showed their trademark resolve, holding out New Zealand for the opening quarter of the match in Suva.
They were in part indebted to goalkeeper Kimberly Uini, who produced a number of excellent saves to keep the defending champions at bay.
Tipping around the post from a low Helena Errington shot after 11 minutes before saving at point-blank range from Lara Colpi when a goal seemed certain.
Uini arguably produced her best stop minutes later when Ella McCann was played through on goal but when trying to round the goalkeeper, was smothered excellently by the sprawling Uini.
Main photo: New Zealand’s Ella McCann challenges for possession. Photo credit: OFC / Kirk Corrie – Phototek.
Eventually, however, the dominance took its toll and the Kiwis found the opening goal through an unfortunate own goal from Tearoa Rouru.
After Colpi had this time successfully rounded Uini, her shot ricocheted off the post and into the backtracking Rouru before nestling in the corner.
A second arrived minutes later when Colpi, again at the heart of the New Zealand attack, found space on the left before playing the ball across the face of goal for Emma Pijnenburg to hook high into the net.
Cook Islands struggled to get out from their own half, with the tireless Hereatea Mapu working hard as the sole forward to try and relieve the pressure when possible.,
New Zealand added one further strike before the half-time whistle when Lara Colpi was found by substitute Zoe Benson, finishing at the second attempt after being denied initially by another outstanding Uini block.
Cook Islands refused to capitulate in the second-half, showing continued resolve to keep the scoreboard at 3-0 for much of the second 45.
Ella McCann went close when found by another Colpi square ball but could only slice her effort wide when well placed. McCann came even closer in the 63rd minute but her goal-bound effort was stopped yet again by the excellent Uini from close range.
It took until the 70th minute for New Zealand to add to their total.
Substitute Ruby Nathan, who was been impressive against Solomon Islands in the quarter-final, found herself one-on-one with Uini after fellow sub Ella McMillan’s through ball was deflected into her path, making no mistake as she slid the ball under the onrushing keeper.
Colpi rattled the crossbar from a Nathan cut-back before Nathan crossed low for Kiara Bercelli to get her name on the scoresheet.
Player of the Match Uini still had time to add to her repertoire of saves, denying Nathan at the death, blocking her volley from yards out.
Both sides have assignments on Saturday, with New Zealand through to face hosts Fiji in the final while for Cook Islands a play-off for third place beckons against Samoa.
Acknowledgement: Match report supplied by OFC Media.
Watch the match
Aimee Feinberg-Danieli, Marie Green (Ella McMillan 46′), Zoe McMeeken, Charlotte Mortlock, Helena Errington (captain) (Ruby Nathan 66′), Manaia Elliott, Lara Colpi, Alexis Cook (Zoe Benson 41′), Emma Pijnenburg (Kiara Bercelli 66′), Ella McCann (Danielle Canham 66′), Rebekah Trewhitt.
Subs not used: Charlotte Eagle, Suya Haering.
Games played on Wednesday July 5, 2023
New Zealand 5 (own goal 22′, Emma Pijnenburg 26′, Lara Colpi 45+2′, Ruby Nathan 70′, Kiara Bercelli 87′)
Cook Islands 0
Samoa 1 (Arianna Skeers 86’pen)
Fiji 3 (Sonia Alfred 44′, Timaima Ana 45+3′, Preeya Singh 69′)
Games to be played on Saturday July 8, 2023
Play-off for third place
Samoa v Cook Islands
HFC Stadium, Suva, 1pm (NZT)
New Zealand v Fiji
HFC Stadium, Suva, 7pm (NZT)