New Zealand are one step away from reaching next year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Indonesia.
New Zealand will play Fiji in the final of the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship in Tahiti on Wednesday September 27, with the winner booking their spot at the World Cup.
The Leon Birnie-coached side reached the final with a 7-0 victory over Tonga in their semi-final in Papeete.
The Kiwis started brightly with Charli Dunn going close with a close-range header following a cross from captain Pia Vlok.
Mackenzie Bryant’s right-footed effort veered wide but it wouldn’t take long before New Zealand did find the net.
Putri Ardana created space for herself with a strong run down the right-hand channel, and her low centre was converted from close range by Angela Pivac.
Vlok was against the supplier when her outstanding reverse pass put Ardana through but the No.11 dragged her attempt wide.
Tonga were impressive in their defensive resolve as they repelled waves of attack. Salome Holika was the pick of the bunch with a well-timed block to keep out Katie Pugh.
Vlok’s low effort was parried by goalkeeper Sofaia Finau before she turned supplier, lifting the ball over the top for Pugh to race onto and slot past Finau to double her side’s lead.
That would prove one of Finau’s last actions of the match, as after an awakward collision, she was stretchered off, replaced by Ana Kafoa just before the break.
The half closed as it opened, with a great chance for Dunn but she hooked her effort over the bar from only a few yards out after Kafoa had spilled a free-kick from Vlok on the right side.
Hopes of a Tongan fightback were extinguished early in the second period.
Katie Pugh was brought down in the area within minutes of the restart, and Vlok confidently stroked the penalty home to make it 3-0 and put the Kiwis in complete control.
Two more followed within a minute of one another, both from substitutes. First, Ela Jerez pounced on a dropped cross from Kafoa to scramble the ball home before fellow replacement Laura Bennett took advantage of indecision in the Tongan backline to poke her effort beneath the keeper’s body.
Bennett added her second and New Zealand’s sixth five minutes later, linking up beautifully with Pugh and curling into the far corner with aplomb.
Amber De Wit appeared from the bench and duly found herself on the scoresheet. Showing excellent touch, she brought down a looped ball from Hannah Saxon before finishing at the near post.
Ela Jerez almost added an eighth with a curled effort but saw her attempt smack the top of the crossbar.
With the clock ticking towards the 90 minute mark, Isla Cleall-Harding rattled the crossbar with a fierce effort that somehow left the net untroubled.
New Zealand look ahead to a final against Fiji on Wednesday (NZT), while Tonga have a couple of days to prepare for their play-off for third place against Tahiti.
Acknowledgement: Match report supplied by OFC Media.
Watch the match
Game played on Sunday September 24, 2023 (NZT)
New Zealand 7 (Angela Pivac 8′, Katie Pugh 35′, Pia Vlok 49′ pen, Ela Jerez 53′, Laura Bennett 54′, 59′, Amber de Wit 71′)
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)
Games to be played on Monday September 25, 2023
Due to adverse weather conditions, the play-off for 7th place and play-off for 5th place at the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship 2023 will now be played at the Fédération Tahitienne de Football Academy in Papeete.
The kick-off times have been changed, and neither game will be live-streamed by OFC.
Play-off for 7th place (12pm NZT)
Solomon Islands v Vanuatu
Play-off for 5th place (4pm NZT)
New Caledonia v Cook Islands
Games to be played on Wednesday September 27, 2023
The play-off for third and final is still scheduled for the Stade Pater.
Play-off for 3rd place (3pm NZT)
Tahiti v Tonga
Final (6pm NZT)
New Zealand v Fiji