Ruthless Ferns move a step closer to Paris Olympics with big win against Fiji

A ruthless performance by the Football Ferns has taken them into the final of the OFC Women’s Olympic Qualifier tournament with a 7-1 drubbing of Fiji.

Grace Jale led the scoring with a hat-trick of headers, while Indiah-Paige Riley and Jacqui Hand each scored twice.

The win means New Zealand will meet Solomon Islands on Monday to decide which nation represents Oceania at the Paris Olympics in July.

After doing just enough in their group games, this was a different New Zealand team in the semi-final in Apia, eager to attack at every opportunity.

Three goals in first-half stoppage time took the result beyond Fiji, giving the Ferns a 5-0 lead at half-time, and a relentless approach finished the job in the second spell.

Main photo: Indiah-Paige Riley scores in the first half.

New Zealand took the field with a four-pronged attack designed to exploit any Fiji weakness down their flanks.

Gabi Rennie and Grace Jale set up on the left wing, while Jacqui Hand and Indiah-Page Riley took charge on the right.

After five minutes, the speedy Hand burst down the sideline, eluding two defenders and setting up the unmarked Riley, who calmly sidefooted her shot into the net from 12 metres.

The four attackers rotated, switching sides and causing confusion among the Fijian defenders.

As the game wore on, Jale roamed wherever she could do the most damage; Riley caused Fiji no end of problems; Hand looked dangerous on the counter attack.

Any Fijian forays into the Ferns’ half were mopped up by the experienced duo of Katie Bowen and captain Rebekah Stott, playing her 99th full international.

New Zealand’s second goal came midway through the first half and it was set up by a fast break in which Hand fed Riley who passed to Rennie, and her cross was scooped into the roof of the net by Hand.

Jacqui Hand (right) scores New Zealand’s second goal against Fiji.

In the 36th minute, Riley set up marauding defender Grace Neville whose shot from the edge of the area rebounded off the inside of the far post and into the grateful arms of goalkeeper Selai Tikoisuva.

New Zealand turned up the heat as the game entered stoppage time in the first half, scoring three times.

A swirling cross from Michaela Foster was misjudged by ‘keeper Tikoisuva and Jale headed the ball home from close.

Next, Bowen pushed forward, dodging defenders and working to the byline. Her pass to the near post was tucked away by Hand.

Jacqui Hand scores at the near post after a penetrating run and cross from Katie Bowen (right).

Rennie almost scored, blasting her shot over the bar.

But it didn’t matter as the next attack set up Riley for her second of the match, a simple tap-in.

New Zealand began the second half at pace, clearly not settling to see out the game at half-pace.

Riley almost completed her hat-trick, smashing a shot against the underneath of the crossbar. Rennie could not quite head the rebound into the net, as Fiji scrambled the ball clear.

New Zealand extended their lead to 6-0 in the 68th minute when Riley crossed to the far post for Rennie to head across the goal, for Jale to nudge the ball over the line.

Grace Jale heads the ball into the net from close.

Jale completed her hat-trick with another header, finishing a pin-point corner by Michaela Foster in the 83rd minute.

New Zealand conceded their first goal at the tournament in stoppage time when Cema Nasau squeezed between defenders to sidefoot her shot past Anna Leat in goal.

Player of the Match

The Player of the Match was awarded to Indiah-Paige Riley.

READ MORE: Coach Jitka Klimkova pleased with Ferns’ improvement during tournament >>>>

READ MORE: Football Ferns defender Rebekah Stott closes in on double milestone >>>>


Games played on Friday February 16, 2024


New Zealand 7 (Indiah-Paige Riley 6′, 45+6′, Jacqui Hand 24′, 45+4′, Grace Jale 45+2′, 68′, 83′)
Fiji 1 (Cema Nasau 90+2′)

Solomon Islands 2 (Sandy Aniholland 65′, Ileen Pegi 78′ pen)
Samoa 0

READ MORE: Solomon Islands book place in final at OFC Women’s Olympic qualifiers >>>>


New Zealand’s starting line-up against Fiji.

New Zealand

Anna Leat, Kate Taylor, Michaela Foster, Gabi Rennie, Betsy Hassett (Katie Kitching 66′), Rebekah Stott (captain), Katie Bowen (Claudia Bunge 46′), Grace Neville (Mackenzie Barry 46′), Jacqui Hand (Hannah Wilkinson 66′), Grace Jale, Indiah-Paige Riley

Subs not used: Victoria Esson (GK), Brianna Edwards (GK), Daisy Cleverley, Ruby Nathan, Ally Green, Ava Collins.

Head coach: Jitka Klimková

Fiji’s starting line-up against New Zealand.


Selai Tikoisuva (Seruwaia Vasuitoga 50′), Filomena Racea, Adi Litia Bakaniceva, Cema Nasau, Preeya Singh, Elesi Tabunase, Kasanita Tabua, Unaisi Tuberi (captain) (Evivi Buka 61′), Seruwaia Laulaba, Sofi Diyalowai (Narieta Leba 61′), Angeline Rekha

Subs not used: Mereseini Waqali (GK),  Asela Cokanasiga, Anasimeci Volitikoro, Sonia Alfred, Luisa Tamanitoakula, Pijila Kilaiwaca, Ema Mereia, Sisilia Tuvou Kuladina.


Yellow card: Nasau 68′

Head coach: Angeline Chua


Referee: David Yareboinen (Papua New Guinea)
Assistant referees: Jeremy Garae (Vanuatu), Stephanie Minan (Papua New Guinea)
Fourth official: Teremoana Roihau (Tahiti)
Fifth official: Vaihina Teura (Tahiti)
Referee assessor: Tevita Vea (Tonga)
Match commissioner: Frederic Guillemont (France)


Game to be played on Monday February 19, 2024


Solomon Islands v New Zealand
FFS Football Stadium, Apia, 5pm (NZT)

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