Rival coaches keen to close gap on Kiwis at OFC U-16 Women’s Championship

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Closing the gap on New Zealand is a key motivator for other teams at the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship being held in Tahiti.

Coaches of other teams at the 12-day tournament acknowledge New Zealand is the team to beat, reports OFC Media.

The winner of the tournament in Tahiti will qualify for the 2024 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup to be held in the Dominican Republic.

Main photo: The New Zealand squad at the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship. Photo credit: NZ Football.

Vanuatu coach Nesta Moli said:

“If you want to become like New Zealand, to be number one, preparation is the most important thing.”

Tonga coach Lafaele Moala says preparation is key, physically and mentally.

“We need to compete with New Zealand, physically, technically, and so that everyone knows what to do on and off the field.

“If we want to be the best, we must do it every day. It’s not just two months or one month.”

Coaches at the pre-tournament media briefing. Photo credit: OFC / Christophe Fotozz.

‘It is a good challenge for all of us’

Solomon Islands coach Patrick Miniti says it is a challenge to compete with New Zealand but one they are ready to embrace.

“And it is a good challenge for all of us to take on, the challenge to try and get to the top with New Zealand as far as competition is concerned, but at the same time, it sets the platform for us to develop the players, the teams to compete in such a level so we can one day maybe beat New Zealand it’ll be good for Oceania.

“So it is a challenge for us other countries to take on the challenge and to lift and develop football to a level that brings Oceania to the world as well.”

Cook Islands face New Zealand in group play on Friday September 15 and coach Tupou Brogan believes it is a fantastic opportunity for her players.

“I do believe the challenge from New Zealand is good. Because without it, we won’t grow. So in this, I feel it’s good for our players to know what the standard is so they can grow.”

New Zealand head coach Leon Birnie says the more investment that goes into all the Oceania nations and their teams, the better it is for football in the region.

“For everyone else, that’ll hopefully close that gap. And for us, we need to keep working to try and improve what we’re doing to keep the gap.”

Watch Leon Birnie interview

New Zealand squad

Putri Ardana (Auckland United)
Laura Bennett (Melville United)
Mackenzie Bryant (Wellington Phoenix Academy)
Sophie Campbell (Palmerston North Marist)
Isla Cleall-Harding (Taradale AFC)
Amber De Wit (Nomads United)
Charli Dunn (Western Springs)
Alyssha Eglinton (Wellington Phoenix Academy)
Emily Humphrey (Wellington Phoenix Academy)
Ela Jerez (Western Springs_

Kara McGillivray (Auckland United)
Kyra Morgan (Western Suburbs)
Brooke Neary (Wellington Phoenix Academy)
Angela Pivac (Wellington Phoenix Academy)
Katie Pugh (Nelson Suburbs)
Holly Robins (Wellington Phoenix Academy)
Hannah Saxon (Eastern Suburbs)
Pia Vlok (Auckland United)
Natalie Young (Hamilton Wanderers)

Tournament details

New Zealand play their opening game at the tournament against Cook islands on Friday September 15 (2pm NZT).

READ MORE: Draw and tournament format for OFC U-16 Women’s Championship >>>>

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