PREVIEW: What the coaches say ahead of OFC Women’s Olympic Qualifiers

New Zealand’s Football Ferns head into the Women’s Olympic Qualifier tournament as strong favourites to qualify for their fifth Olympic Games.

But head coach Jitka Klimková believes the standard of women’s football throughout the Pacific is rapidly improving, with increased emphasis on developing the women’s game, a legacy of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

Speaking at the pre-tournament media conference in Samoa, Klimková said she had watched the Oceania teams at the recent Pacific Games in Honiara and had taken note of the rising standard of football in the region.

“I think we can make each other better if we have competitive games, and we know the gaps are getting closer and I can see the development,” she said.

“It’s a lot of work and passion that needs to be put in, but you can see the sport is growing and there’s huge potential for women’s football to grow and develop in Oceania.”

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American Samoa’s Ruepeni Luvu, Angeline Chua (Fiji) and Jitka Klimková. Photo credit: OFC Media.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) traditionally have been seen as the team best placed to test New Zealand.

Head coach Eric Komeng is playing down the pressure on his side.

“As a coach, you just have to have the confidence in the team, and New Zealand is the favourite, but we just have to compete and try and be at our best in every game,” Komeng said.

“Winning the Pacific Games gives the girls confidence and builds a winning side, but the Olympic Qualifiers are a totally different competition.”

Rivals Fiji have selected a young side, featuring several players who will compete for a place in Angeline Chua’s squad at the FIFA U-20 World Cup later this year.

“The aim is to give the younger players as much international exposure as possible. We take it one game at a time and have a task ahead to make sure we qualify top of the group. We know our opponents’ strengths and weaknesses,” Chua said.

The Fijians kick off their Group A campaign against American Samoa in the opening match of the tournament.

Tonga coach Kilifi Uele spoke passionately about the impact last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup has had on women’s football in his country.

“With the World Cup in our region, we realised how tremendous women’s football is going, and we need to be more active in our development and there is so much for us to work with FIFA and OFC,” he said.

“We need to change the way we coach and mould the players to be more competitive against New Zealand. So if we are reducing the gap, New Zealand will get better and push to a higher level at the World Cup.”

Tonga plays New Zealand in its opening match at 1pm (Samoa/NZ time).

Fiji and American Samoa kick off the tournament at midday with PNG and Solomon Islands playing at 3pm and hosts Samoa playing Vanuatu at 5pm.

Samoa coach Juan Chang Urrea says they see this opportunity as a blessing playing at home.

“We have only been taking it one day at a time and our mission is to leave it better than we found it,” Chang Urrea said.

“It’s about doing the little things and focusing on what we can control.”


This story has been provided by OFC Media.


Game to be played on Wednesday February 7, 2024

New Zealand v Tonga
Apia Park, Apia, Samoa, 1pm (NZT)



Ana Polovili, Veitongo, Tonga
Siunipa Talasinga, Veitongo, Tonga
Lusitania Koloa, Veitongo, Tonga
Seini Lutu, Veitongo, Tonga
Latusiu Lomu, Veitongo, Tonga
Ana Lauteau, Veitongo, Tonga
Fololeni Filitonga, Fahefa, Tonga
Ana Talasinga, Lotoha’apai United, Tonga
Kalolaine Topui, Navutoka, Tonga
Leean Taufa’ao, Veitongo, Tonga
Tama’a Faletau, ‘Okoa, Tonga
Lavinia Afu, Longolongo, Tonga
Lositika Feke, Longolongo, Tonga
Melaia Polovili, Veitongo, Tonga
Hehea Taufam, Longolongo, Tonga
Lu’isa Mahe, Pangai (Ha’apai), Tonga
Oko Ta’ufo’ou, Liviela, Tonga
Tepola Fotu, ‘Utui, Tonga
Lesieli Moala, Lotoha’apai United, Tonga
Meleseini Tufui, Veitongo, Tonga
Daviana Vaka, Utah Avalanche, United States
Telly Vunipola, Washington State University, United States
Sachi Swift, Victoria Highlanders, Canada
Lisimani Helu, New Mexico State University, United States
Leila Hausia-Haugen, University of Puget Sound, United States
Eden Makaafi, College of Idaho, United States
Madison Tenifa, Longolongo, Tonga

Head coach: Kilifi Uele

New Zealand

Liz Anton* (19 caps) Perth Glory FC, Australia
Mackenzie Barry (9 caps) Wellington Phoenix FC, New Zealand
Katie Bowen (100 caps) Inter Milan, Italy
Claudia Bunge (24 caps) HB Køge, Denmark
Daisy Cleverley (33 caps) HB Køge, Denmark
Ava Collins (13 caps) St John’s University, USA
Brianna Edwards (0 caps) Wellington Phoenix FC, New Zealand
Victoria Esson (20 caps) Rangers FC, Scotland
Michaela Foster (10 caps) Wellington Phoenix FC, New Zealand
Macey Fraser (0 caps) Wellington Phoenix FC, New Zealand
Ally Green (7 caps) AGF, Denmark
Jacqui Hand (19 caps) Lewes FC, England
Betsy Hassett (152 caps) Stjarnan FC, Iceland
Grace Jale (23 caps) Perth Glory, Australia
Katie Kitching (2 caps) Sunderland AFC, England
Anna Leat (13 caps) Aston Villa FC, England
Annalie Longo (133 caps) Wellington Phoenix FC, New Zealand
Ruby Nathan* (1 caps) Canberra United, Australia
Grace Neville (6 caps) London City Lionesses, England
Gabi Rennie (30 caps) Unattached
Indiah-Paige Riley (16 caps) PSV Vrouwen, Netherlands
Rebekah Stott (96 caps) Melbourne City FC, Australia
Kate Taylor (11 caps) Wellington Phoenix FC, New Zealand
Hannah Wilkinson (119 caps) Melbourne City FC, Australia

*Available for Tonga game only

Head coach: Jitka Klimková

Tournament draw

# indicates current FIFA world ranking

Group A

  • Papua New Guinea #54
  • Fiji #71
  • Solomon Islands #104
  • American Samoa (no current ranking)

Group B

  • New Zealand #30
  • 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.

Match schedule

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