Late winner gets New Zealand through to FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup

New Zealand have qualified for next year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup after scoring a last-gasp winner to beat Fiji in Tahiti.

Katie Pugh scored the winner four minutes into stoppage time of the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship final at the Stade Pater, Papeete.

With only seconds remaining, Pugh sealed the title for the Kiwis to break Fijian hearts, who had put in a herculean effort.

As expected, New Zealand started the brighter and dominated possession in the opening stages.

To their credit, Fiji were resolute and well-drilled, and it was notable that the Kiwis were struggling to string passes together in the manner seen earlier in the tournament.

Pugh went closest to opening the score in the first half when played through the centre but her left-footed shot cannoned back off the post, and Fiji escaped.

There was a scrappiness nature to most of the opening 45 minutes, which appeared to suit Angeline Chua’s Fiji side as they kept New Zealand at bay.

Goalkeeper Rosalain Sarahphina quick off her mark on a number of occasions, diving at the feet of her opponents to snuff out any attack.

Pugh had another half-chance late in the period, rounding Sarahphina but being unable to convert when the angle narrowed and Fiji managed to clear.

Laura Bennett similarly found space in the box and lifted her effort over the keeper but Fiji’s defence scrambled well to clear once again and keep the scoresheet untroubled.

The Kiwis upped the pace and intensity in the second half but Fiji continued to hold strong.

Just past the hour mark, New Zealand went agonisingly close.

Charli Dunn rose to meet a corner from the right-hand side but her guided header came back off the post, much to the relief of the Fijians.

Amber de Wit. Photo credit: OFC Media via Christophe Fotoz.

Minutes later, midfielder Amber De Wit tried her luck from distance but despite striking the ball well, it flew wide.

With a little under 15 minutes remaining, Pugh once again found herself played in but Sarahphina smothered at her feet well, taking a knock for her troubles.

Pugh came close again, taking advantage of a diagonal ball that was allowed to drop only to see her goal-bound effort blocked.

With the seconds ticking down and penalties looming large, New Zealand finally found the breakthrough. Ela Jerez brought the ball down and slid a perfect slide-rule pass to Pugh and the forward expertly slotted past Sarahphina to win it for the Kiwis.

Watch Katie Pugh’s goal

Acknowledgement: Match report provided by OFC Media.

Main photo predit: OFC Media via Christophe Fotoz.

About the 2024 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup

The eighth edition of the tournament will be held from October 16 – November 3, 2024, in the Dominican Republic.

The competition will consist of 16 teams, including the host nation, New Zealand, and teams yet to qualify from Asia (3), Africa (3), North, Central America and the Caribbean (2), South America (3) and Europe (3).

Watch the match


Games played on Wednesday September 27, 2023


New Zealand 1 (Katie Pugh 90+4′)
Fiji 0

Play-off for third

Tahiti 5 (Haranui Le Gayic 18′, 42, 45+5′, 45+6′, Willany Kautai 36′)
Tonga 3 (Tama’a Faletau 8′, Anna Pongi 82′, Mele Falekakala 89′)

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)

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