PAPUA New Guinea U17 girls coach Michael Robinson said he was completely in the dark like many of his opposing coaches at the first-ever OFC U17 women’s championship which kicks off in North Harbours Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand this afternoon.
PNG will play Tonga in the opening match at midday today before hosts New Zealand take on Solomon Islands at 3pm.
New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tonga will participate in the round-robin football tournament from today to Friday with the winners advancing to the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago in September.
Robinson said it was a brand new competition and participating coaches admitted they were largely in the dark over their opposition.
“I don’t know too much, to be honest,” Robinson said.
“Obviously, New Zealand we know a little bit about, they’ve been together a while. But with the other teams, I’ve just seen them at training today and have had to quickly assess if they’re athletic and how good they are technically.”
New Zealand will go into the tournament as favourites having shown their dominance at the U20 level three months ago during the OFC qualifiers when the Junior Football Ferns comfortably beat American Samoa, Cook Islands and Tonga to book a ticket to the FIFA U20 women’s World Cup in Germany in July.
But young Football Ferns coach Dave Edmondson also admits to knowing little about the other teams, particularly the Solomon Islands whom they will meet in the opener.
“The Solomons are the only ones we haven’t actually seen at training yet,” Edmondsons said.
“Having watched the other two they look to play a short passing game but don’t seem to have any big threat. It will be a different way of playing for our girls so it will be how we adapt to that. If we score early, I think it could be quite comfortable.”
The OFC U17 women’s championship represents an important step in the development of women’s football in Oceania.
OFC has aligned its competitions with FIFA events – in this case the U17 women’s World Cup which was successfully staged in New Zealand for the first time in 2008.