New Zealand will face Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu in their group at February’s OFC Women’s Olympic qualifiers.
The draw at the OFC Home of Football — Te Kahu o Kiwa — was carried out on November 23 by former Football Ferns captain Maia Jackman, and hosted by OFC Competitions Director Chris Kemp.
Main photo: Maia Jackman draws New Zealand’s name out as the top-seeded team in Group B.
Held in Samoa from February 7-19, the tournament will involve eight nations vying to qualify for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
The tournament winner will represent Oceania in France.
# indicates current FIFA world ranking
- Papua New Guinea #54
- Fiji #71
- Solomon Islands #104
- American Samoa (no current ranking)
- New Zealand #26
- Tonga #92
- Samoa #97
- Vanuatu #122
The top two sides from each pool will advance to the semi-final stage with each pool winner meeting the runners-up from the other group.
The winning semi-finalists will meet in a sudden-death final.
Maia Jackman: ‘It’s a huge thrill’
Commenting on the draw, Jackman says it’s a huge thrill to have the opportunity to qualify your country for the Olympic Games.
She told OFC Media: “Absolutely, the Olympics is such a dream, a goal that many kids have, a lot don’t know how. But here we have a vehicle for some of these players to prepare for and go to an Olympic Games.”
Jackman felt it would be a huge opportunity for host nation Samoa to test themselves against Oceania powerhouse New Zealand in Group B.
New Zealand represented Oceania at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“It’s a big challenge when New Zealand is in your group but there are more resources going into Oceania Football and to be at home, Samoa will have that 12th woman cheering them on. It will be a challenge but one that I am sure they will definitely rise to.”
Group A is expected to be closely contested with the likes of Solomon Islands, Fiji and Papua New Guinea chasing two semi-final spots.
“It is a tough group. I remember watching Papua New Guinea in the World Cup qualifiers and they’ve come a long way and Fiji have really pushed (New Zealand) Under 17’s recently.”