New Zealand have qualified for the 2024 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup after beating hosts Fiji 7-0 in the final of the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship.
The win gives New Zealand a record-extending eighth title.
Main photo: The New Zealanders are jubilant after retaining their OFC title. Photo: OFC / Kirk Corrie — Phototek.
An outstanding display from captain Manaia Elliott was the driving force for the defending champions, scoring twice in the first-half and setting up another as the Kiwis took control in the opening 45 minutes at HFC Bank Stadium.
New Zealand threatened from the off, pinning Fiji deep in their half and able to quell any threats of counter-attacks from the hosts.
Fiji looked to rely on the pace and athleticism of Preeya Singh and Kasanita Tabua to create chances but more often than not found themselves swamped by their opponent’s defence.
Manaia Elliott, selected as captain for the match by head coach Leon Birnie, broke the deadlock after thirteen minutes, played through on the right-hand edge of the penalty area and slamming the ball past goalkeeper Mereseini Waqali to make it 1-0.
Kiara Bercelli came close to doubling the lead moments later but could only lift her effort over the keeper and wide of the near post. Kasanita Tabua’s free-kick from distance had power but failed to trouble Aimee Feinberg-Danieli in the New Zealand net.
The lead was doubled on the half-hour mark, again through Elliott.
Helena Errington’s free-kick from about 25 yards was spilled by Waqali and Elliott reacted before the Fiji defence to poke the ball home via the left post.
Ten minutes later, Elliott was instrumental in adding a third for the reigning champions, cutting back for Ella McCann to score from close-range after McCann had initially got her head to an Emma Pijnenburg free-kick from near halfway.
A number of substitutions for the hosts gave them an added impetus and directness in the second period but still, they struggled to carve out efforts on goal.
New Zealand, not quite matching their first period intensity, were still dangerous, especially in wide areas and it was from wide on the left that the fourth goal came, when full-back Zoe McMeeken crossed low for Ruby Nathan to add to her tournament tally from close-range.
Fiji began to grow into the half and gain some territorial ascendancy but were limited to chances from set-pieces. Preeya Singh troubling New Zealand goalkeeper Aimee Feinberg-Danieli with a wicked cross from the right, the stopper indebted to her defence for clearing after she spilled an attempted catch.
Ruby Nathan got her second with just under 25 minutes remaining when she ran onto a perfectly weighted through ball from substitute Charlotte Mortlock and expertly arrowed her effort across Waqali and into the far corner.
Mortlock herself would get on the scoresheet after Waqali had smothered to save well from substitute Zoe Benson, with Mortlock reacting quickly to roll the ball into the unguarded net.
Nathan was again key as New Zealand added a seventh, on this occasion being brought down by ‘keeper Waqali in the box.
Pijnenburg, having taken the captain’s armband from Elliott after her departure, calmly lifted her spot-kick into the top corner.
Fiji almost found their consolation goal when great play from Preeya Singh sent Seruwaia Laulaba clear down the left and her low cross was cleared away in the knick of time by Ella McMillan with the goal gaping.
For New Zealand, they can now prepare to take on the world’s best at the 2024 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Colombia next year.
Acknowledgement: This report has been provided by OFC Media.
Watch the match
New Zealand line-up
Aimee Feinberg-Danieli, Ella McMillan, Marie Green, Zoe McMeeken, Ruby Nathan, Helena Errington (Suya Haering 71′), Manaia Elliott (captain) (Charlotte Mortlock 63′), Kiara Bercelli (Lara Colpi 63′), Emma Pijnenburg, Ella McCann, Rebekah Trewhitt (Danielle Canham 71′).
Subs not used: Charlotte Eagle, Alexis Cook.
Games played on Saturday July 8, 2023
New Zealand 7 (Manaia Elliott 13′, 30′, Ella McCann 40′, Ruby Nathan 52′, 66′, Charlotte Mortlock ’75, Emma Pijnenburg 78′ pen)
Play-off for third
Samoa 2 (Arianna Skeers 78′, 90+7′)
Cook Islands 1 (Abrihana Enoka ’89’)
New Zealand squad
Zoe Benson Eastern Suburbs, New Zealand
Kiara Bercelli U.C. Sampdoria, Italy
Danielle Canham Auckland United, New Zealand
Lara Colpi Western Springs, New Zealand
Alexis Cook Auckland United, New Zealand
Aimee Danieli Wellington Phoenix Academy, New Zealand
Charlotte Eagle Wellington Phoenix Academy, New Zealand
Manaia Elliott Wellington Phoenix Academy, New Zealand
Helena Errington Wellington Phoenix Academy, New Zealand
Marie Green Wellington Phoenix Academy, New Zealand
Suya Haering Auckland United, New Zealand
Ella McCann Wellington Phoenix Academy, New Zealand
Zoe McMeeken Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand
Ella McMillan Wellington Phoenix Academy, New Zealand
Charlotte Mortlock Cashmere Technical, New Zealand
Ruby Nathan Auckland United, New Zealand
Emma Pijnenburg Feyenoord Beloften Vrouwen, Netherlands
Rebekah Trewhitt Wellington Phoenix Academy, New Zealand
Head coach: Leon Birnie
Assistant coach: Maia Vink
Physio: Casey Irving
Team manager: Shivanthi Anthony
Goalkeeper coach: Tessa Nicol
Video analyst: Cameron Olsen
Sports scientist: Isabella Coombes
New Zealand scored 45 goals in their five matches, and conceded none.
Goalscorers were: Ruby Nathan (8), Zoe Benson (7), Kiara Bercelli (5), Emma Pijnenburg (4), Alexis Cook (4), Ella McCann (4), Manaia Elliott (3), Danielle Canham (2), Lara Colpi (2), Helena Errington (2), Rekekah Trewhitt (2), Charlotte Mortlock (1), own goal (1).
How New Zealand reached the final
Pool game 1
Game played on Thursday June 22, 2023
New Zealand 3 (Emma Pijnenburg 15′, Rebekah Trewhitt 65′, 74′)
Pool game 2
Game played on Sunday June 25, 2023
New Zealand 11 (Manaia Elliott 3′, Alexis Cook 12′, 20′, 24′ 54′, Helena Errington 18′, 71′, Zoe Benson 21′, 37′, 48′, 56′)
Papua New Guinea 0
Game played on Sunday July 2, 2023
New Zealand 19 ( (Ella McCann 9′, 28′, 34′, Ruby Nathan 13′ 43′ 51′ 88′ 90+2′, Zoe Benson 13′ 55′ 62′, Danielle Canham 16′ 39′, Kiara Bercelli 19′, 23′, 35′ 74′, Emma Pijnenburg 45′, Lara Colpi 68′)
Solomon Islands 0
Game 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