U17s off to qualifiers

Normal, Sports

The National, Tuesday January 12th, 2016

 THE Papua New Guinea Under-17 women’s squad are hoping to make the semifinals of their World Cup regional qualifier, with coach Margaret Aka confident her team will be ready to take on all comers at the Oceania Football Confederation tournament in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, starting Thursday. A former national representative, Aka said her players, whom she flies out with today, were in a buoyant mood after weeks of specialised training at camps around the country with national coach Lisa Cole at the National Sports Institute in Goroka, the PNGFA Academy in Lae and culminating with a four-day pre-tournament programme in Port Moresby.

She said the level of preparation for the U17s had surpassed what had been done in the past.

The U17s are mostly made up  of the U15 team that Aka took to the 2014 Youth Olympics and despite having played  together in a major tournament, the Oceania World Cup qualifiers will see PNG face strong challenges from Group B opponents Fiji, Vanuatu and hosts Cook Islands.

Group A has the tournament heavyweights New Zealand and New Caledonia, while Samoa and Tonga make up that four.

“The bulk of the players are the girls that we took in 2014 to the Youth Olympics but we have to be mindful of their current form,” Aka said.

“The new players have gelled well with the core of the squad and we’re all sure we will perform.

“It will be interesting to see where the girls are in their development as players and as a team.”

She said her hope was that they could mold the team into an effective representative unit and the Oceania World Cup qualifiers would provide with the best opportunity to test their mettle against others in the region.

Aka said she was grateful to be retained as coach and that was part of developing a strong and stable side. PNG’s main task if it makes it out of the pool stages would be to beat either the Kiwis or the New Caledonians.

“We think we can beat New Zealand if we have the chance to play them in the semi-finals.”

The team leaves tomorrow at 1pm for the Cook Islands.

Squad: Faith Kasiray, Veronica Vanua, Alison Paulias, Belinda Giada, Natasha Sagem, Loretta Yagum, Selina Unamba, Serah Tamgol, Margaret Joseph, Anila Robert, Samantha Matan, Anna Sos, Mellissa Jofari, Anna Malara, Dorothy Wamilat, Robertlynn Kig, Isabella Natera , Mercedes Hapoto, Bridget Paime, Eswin Mano Matlaun.

Fixtures: Group B – Thurs, Jan 14 PNG vs Vanuatu; Sat, Jan 16 PNG vs Cook Is; Mon, Jan 18 PNG vs Fiji; Semi-finals – Thurs, Jan 21; Final – Sat, Jan 23.