Champs return today

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Midfielder Rayleen Bauelua challenging for possession against Fiji captain Sofia Diyalowai in Saturday’s Oceania Football Confederation Women’s Nations Cup final. – OFCpic
PNG skipper Meagan Gunemba in action against hosts Fiji in Saturday’s Oceania Football Confederation Women’s Nations Cup final. – OFCpic

THE national women’s football team will arrive this afternoon from Fiji with Papua New Guinea’s maiden Oceania

Papua New Guinea striker Marie Kaipu attempting a strike as Fiji’s defender Filomena Racea applies pressure in Saturday’s Oceania Football Confederation Women’s Nations Cup final. – OFCpic

Football Confederation Women’s Nations Cup trophy.
Head coach Nicola Demaine said the 24-man squad would be given time off before resuming preparations for the February playoff tournament in New Zealand for a spot in next year’s World Cup.

“We’ve got seven mothers in the team,” she said of her 49th-ranked side.
“These women have made massive sacrifices to be together for two-and-a-half months.
“So for the next few weeks, we’ll let them go home.
“This is all on them, what they’ve achieved so far.
“Let’s see what they can achieve in the next stage.
“They are amazing woman who have earned the right to take the trophy home and represent Oceania in the playoff tournament.”
Cameroon (ranked 54th in the world), Senegal (89), Chinese Taipei (40), Thailand (43), Haiti (60), Panama (57), Chile (38) and Paraguay (50) are other nations that have so far qualified for the playoff tournament.
A European nation will compete against representatives from Africa, Asia, South America, North America and Oceania for the three remaining spots in the World Cup which will be held in Australia and New Zealand.
“There are three Fifa windows left this year where it would be great to have matches against next-level teams,” Demaine said. “That way, we can measure what standard we are at and how we can improve.
“It would be great to have a home game and reward the fans with a chance to support the team.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister James Marape pledged the Government’s continued support towards the team.
“The Government will continue to support the team through the National Gaming Control Board and Kumul Petroleum Holdings Limited,” he said.
“They deserve a hero’s welcome as they return home for a well-deserved break before preparing for next year.”

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