The OFC Women’s Nations Cup starts on Sunday when Samoa takes on Papua New Guinea. Football in Oceania gives you the complete guide to the tournament in New Caledonia. From teams and the players to look out for, to stadiums, Football in Oceania has you covered.
The 11th edition of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup takes place in New Caledonia with four stadiums set to host the matches. Eight nations, divided into two groups of four, hope they will be the ones to lift the trophy over their heads on December 1st. The top two sides from each group go through to the semi-finals.
The tournament has, unsurprisingly been won by New Zealand three years running, beating Papua New Guinea in all three finals. But behind them, it has been quite an open field with Tonga and the Cook Islands (twice) taking third place, with the Solomon Islands also in the mix. The Solomons aren’t in this year’s edition after they failed to qualify, so it will be interesting to see how Fiji, who won the qualifiers, do.
This year’s Nations Cup is the joint largest ever with the eight teams set for New Caledonia equalling the number of sides from the 2010 edition. The grand prize is qualification to the 2019 World Cup in France and the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, as well as the title of Oceania’s best team of course, so the stakes are high.
But let’s get to the participants, shall we?
We start with the hosts. They have not participated in this tournament since 1983(!). Yes, you read that right. The last time they participated was 35 years ago. They hosted it back then too and finished third in the four-team tournament.
Most of the squad are based at home in New Caledonia with some playing in the regional leagues in France and one in New Zealand.
The New Caledonia Football Federation have stated that a semi-final is their goal for the tournament and looking at the group they are in that seems like a realistic objective.
Keep an eye on: Kim Maguire. The New Zealand based striker is a regular for WaiBOP in the National Women’s League and last season scored four of the club’s nine goals. She has yet to get off the mark this season, but she will no doubt have the skills to be a threat to any defence.
Goalkeepers: Lorenza Hnamano – AS Wetr, Dolores Bodeouarou – Paita FC
Defenders: Josiane Ayawa – Païta FC, Moisette Broustet – Païta FC, Claire Kaemo – AS Lössi, Glenda Jaine – AS Lössi, Bernadette Euribeari – AS Communale Boulouparis, Madelaine Jaine – AS Lössi, Darnelle Hace – AS Lössi, Cinthia Paita – Paita FC.
Midfielders: Marilyse Lolo – AC Boulogne-Billancourt (FRA), Cassidy Cawa – AS Wetr, Kamene Xowie – Es 3 Cités Foot Poitiers (FRA), Aurélie Lalie – US Boulogne Côte d’Opale (FRA), Kathleen Nemouare – AJS De Koinde, Ivonne Xowi – FC Gaïtcha, Shaya Ihmeling – AS Académie Feminine, Céline Xolawawa – US Saint Vit (FRA).
Attackers: Jackie Pahoa – AS Académie Feminine, Kim Maguire – WaiBOP Football (NZL), Sydney Gatha – AS Communale Boulouparis, Ami-Nata Ajaphnya – AS Wetr.
Head Coach: Kamaliele Fitialeata
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea are perhaps favourites in this group as they are four-time Pacific Games gold medalists and three times Nations Cup runners-up, but they might not be in the form of their lives. All their players play on home soil but there has not been a women’s league in PNG for over three years. A new league will start very soon, but the lack of competitive matches for so long, could be a problem. The loss of Yasap Ganu and Zeenah Toropoi due to passport issues and Lavina Hola for medical reasons could also be a big blow.
There are some young exciting names to check out too with goalkeeper Faith Kasiray, Olita Upaupa and Yvonne Gabong having made the transition to the senior side after taking part in the U20 World Cup in PNG two years ago.
National league or not, the minimum goal for Peter Gunemba’s girls must be a semi-final.
Keep an eye on: Judith Gunemba. The defender knows what this is all about after she, and her sister Meagan, participated last time out on home soil. She also has experience from the Pacific Games in 2015. She’s the sister of superstar Raymond Gunemba, so she has football in her blood.
Goalkeepers: Faith Kasiray – Tusbab Blue Kumuls, Betty Sam – Foreigners SC,
Defenders: Rita Mayang – Bara FC, Merolyn Sali – Tamba FC, Judith Gunemba – Poro FC, Olita Upaupa – Tusbab Blue Kumuls, Stephanie Gani – Poro FC, Fidorah Namuesh – Wawen FC.
Midfielders: Yvonne Gabong – Leilam FC, Sandra Birum – Wantoks FC, Margaret Joseph – Leilam FC, Rayleen Bauelua – Leilam FC, Marie Kaipu – Hekari United, Eunice Nabalu – Bara FC, Theresah Boie – Crossroad FC, Elizabeth Elizah – Leilam FC.
Attackers: Selina Unamba – Tsubab Blue Kumuls, Meagan Gunemba – Poro FC, Ramona Padio – 21 Lakers FC, Cynthia Pulou – FC Genessi, Georgina Bakani – KI Tulako SC.
Head Coach: Peter Gunemba
The Samoa squad is a real outsider for a place in the semi-finals this year. They have plenty of players based in New Zealand, Australia and USA that improve the local talent.
Teams should expect a tough battle against Samoa who could soak up the pressure and explode on the counter attacks.
Keep an eye on: Mariah Bullock. Samoa’s surprising star player is former Seattle Reign defender Mariah Bullock who has come out of retirement to play for her mother’s country of birth. A veteran of the US National Women’s Soccer League with Seattle and Boston, the 27-year old, who is capped at youth level for the US, could be a real game-changer for the Samoans.
Goalkeepers: Ronisa Lipi – Capital Football (NZL), Meripa Seumanutafa – Papakura City (NZL), Jecky Toma – Fa’atoia United.
Defenders: Mariah Bullock – Unattached, Epi Tafili – Kiwi FC, Hunter Malakai – Rush FC (USA), Shontelle Stevens – Manukau City (NZL), Mariecamilla Ah Ki – Queensland Lions (AUS), Paepae Tuitama – Faleasi’u SC.
Midfielders: Lynetta Laumea-Edward – Lepea FC, Lopamaua Ah Sam – Lotopa SC, Matalena Daniells – Morenton Bay (AUS), Tiare Tuimavave – Unattached, Semeatu Lemana – Moata’a FC.
Attackers: Sinautola Sataraka – Bulls Hawaii (USA), Melesete Aia – Fa’atoia United, Luisa Ioane, Manukau City AFC (NZL), Madaleen Ah Ki – Queensland Lions (AUS), Hazel Peleti – Faatoia United FC, Caroline Scanlan – Kiwi FC, Hana Malo – Fa’atoia United.
Head Coach: Nicola Demaine
Now, here is a real underdog. Tahiti will make their first Nations Cup appearance since 2010. In the 2011 Pacific Games, which is the last time the side played a competition, they finished third in their group, losing to PNG and drawing with New Caledonia.
The Vahine Ura will nonetheless be hoping to advance to the semi-finals this time around.
Keep an eye on: Heimiri Alvarez. The Pirae striker is the experienced goalscorer in this squad. She netted three times the last time Tahiti played a Nations Cup and also scored in the Pacific Games, so she knows what it takes on the big stage. A lot of weight could be put on her shoulders.
Goalkeepers: Corail Harry – AS Tefana, Vahinerii Puraga – Taiarapu FC.
Defenders: Mihitua Tihoni – AS Papara, Joëlle Tepea – AS Tefana, Hana Kimitete – AS Tefana, Lanihei Rua – AS Pirae, Hitiana Long Tang – AS Tefana, Raihei Tetauru – AS Olympic de Mahina.
Midfielders: Maite Teikiavaitoua – AS JT, Tiare Tekakioteragi – AS Tefana, Tahia Tamarii – AS Papara, Vahuariki Tufaunui – AS Tefana, Kiani Wong – AS Tefana, Heidy Marae – Taiarapu FC.
Attackers: Teatarii Maraetefau – AS JT, Heimiri Alvarez – AS Pirae, Carole Teotahi – AS TAC, Ninauea Hioe – AS Pirae, Hanihei Taumaa – AS Papara.
Head Coach: Stéphanie Spielmann
Two from the somewhat legendary Harmon name flies the flag for the Cook Islands in this tournament with Elizabeth Harmon and youngster Moeroa Harmon pulling on the national shirt. The Cook Islands come with a good pedigree of results with two third-place finishes from the last two Nations Cups.
But it remains to be seen if the competition perhaps is a little to tough this time around. Points would probably be a minimum requirement from the CIFA.
Keep an eye on: Elizabeth Harmon. The 26-year-old midfielder is the most experienced head in the Cook Islands squad both in terms of caps and goals. She has played in the last Nations Cup and Pacific Games so Liz is experienced at the big stage, which is needed in a very young and inexperienced squad.
Goalkeepers: Marjorie Toru – Avatiu FC, Thea Keith – Tokoroa AFC (NZL).
Defenders: Tasha Dean – Puaikura FC, Poko Manuela – Nikao Sokattak FC, Maeva Carr – Titikaveka FC, Teretia Teinaki – Tupapa Maraerenga FC, Claudean Robati – Tupapa Maraerenga FC, Lee Maoate-Cox – Cashmere Technical (NZL), Tekura Urarii – Northwest United (NZL).
Midfielders: Tehinnah Tatuava – Titikaveka FC, Elizabeth Harmon – Tupapa Maraerenga FC, Piri Murare – Avatiu FC, Mii Piri – Tupapa Maraerenga FC, Tayla Hetherington – Manukau United AFC (NZL).
Attackers: Tupou Patia – Tupapa Maraerenga FC, Paulina Morris-Ponga – Titikaveka FC, Moeroa Harmon – Tupapa Maraerenga FC, Rai Nganu – Puaikura FC, Marissa Iroa – Tupapa Maraerenga FC,
Head Coach: Tuka Tisam
The winners of the qualifiers aren’t as far behind the others as it may sometimes seem in the men’s game. Fiji is a strong side that just lost out to Vanuatu, a side they beat in the qualifiers, in the Pacific Mini Games final in Port Vila in December last year. So they have improved since then, where they also beat a team they’ll face now, Tonga, 5-0.
Head Coach Marika Rodu will hope his team can make it to the semi-finals, and from there, anything is possible.
Keep an eye on: Trina Davis. The young US-based striker, who can represent Fiji thanks to her mother, is a rapid player who can hurt any defence with her pace. She has recovered from a troubling knee and should be fully fit. The 17-year-old also played in the qualifiers where she was the top scorer with four goals.
Goalkeepers: Adi Tuwai – Ba FC, Seru Vasuitoga – Nasinu FC, Anaseini Maucuna – Labasa FC.
Defenders: Naomi Waqanidrola – Rewa FC, Mereoni Tora – Ba FC, Laniana Qereqeretabua – Ba FC, Veniana Ranadi – Ba FC, Sekola Waqanidrola – Rewa FC.
Midfielders: Titilia Waqabaca – Ba FC, Cema Nasau – Ba FC, Koleta Likuculacula – Ba FC, Jotivini Tabua – Labasa FC, Sonali Rao – Ba FC, Viniana Riwai – Rewa FC.
Forwards: Asilika Gasau – Suva FC, Trina Davis – Washington Rush (USA), Luisa Tamanitoakula – Ba FC, Lewamanu Moce – Suva FC, Sofi Diyalowai – Labasa FC, Timaima Vuniyayawa – Rewa FC.
Head Coach: Marika Rodu
The team that usually are big favourites are still just that, but they are perhaps a little more vulnerable than before. In-house problems that saw coach and technical director Andreas Heraf sacked for what was reported as bullying behaviour has seen Scotsman Tom Sermanni take charge.
The former Australia national coach has had a short time to prepare after taking charge in October, but with all the experience and pure skill in the squad, anything less than a final will still be an absolute disaster for the Football Ferns.
Keep an eye on: Katie Rood. There are so many names that I could have picked but, in the end, I’ve gone with a player that I am very much looking forward to see play. The former Juventus player is now at Bristol City in the English Super League and the 26-year-old could get her breakout tournament on the international stage in New Caledonia.
Goalkeepers: Erin Nayler – Girondins Bordeaux (FRA), Victoria Esson – Canterbury United Pride, Nadia Olla – Auckland Football.
Defenders: Ria Percival – West Ham United (ENG), Ali Riley – Chelsea FC (ENG), CJ Bott – Vittsjö GIK (SWE), Anna Green – Capital Football, Meikayla Moore – MSV Duisburg (GER), Rebekah Stott – Melbourne City (AUS) Elizabeth Anton – Auckland Football, Sarah Morton – Auckland Football, Stephanie Skilton – Auckland Football.
Midfielders: Betsy Hassett – KR Reykjavik (ISL), Annalie Longo – Canterbury United Pride, Emma Rolston – MSV Duisburg (GER), Katie Bowen – Utah Royals (USA), Malia Steinmetz – Northern Lights.
Attackers: Sarah Gregorius – Capital Football, Grace Jale – Auckland Football, Katie Rood – Bristol City (ENG), Paige Satchell – Auckland Football, Rosie White – Chicago Red Stars (USA).
Head Coach: Tom Sermanni
Tonga come with the smallest squad in the tournament with 18 players. That could be a problem should they cause an upset and get out of this group. They are capable of doing just that as the spot behind New Zealand is up for grabs.
With a young and inexperienced squad, the oldest player is born in 1987, and ten of the 18 are born after the turn of the century, it will be intriguing to see how they do when the heat gets turned up. A semi-final is not impossible, but perhaps unlikely.
Keep an eye on: Finehika Finau. The big star of Tonga’s futsal adventure at the Youth Olympic Games, Seini Lutu, is not in the squad. But Finau is, and she was a very good player for the Tongans at that tournament too. It will be interesting to see if she can keep the positive momentum from that tournament going, and if she gets playing time (she is only 16 after all), it could be something special to watch.
Embed from Getty Images
Finehika Finau chasing down Spain’s Antonia Martinez
Goalkeepers: Mele Niukapu – Birkenhead United (NZL), Carollyne Fotu – Nukuhetulu FC.
Defenders: Fifi Moala – Veitongo FC, Tolini Kofutu’a – Fasi mo e Afi ‘a Tungi FC, Mele Kafa – Talafo’ou FC, Julie Macpherson – Lomaiviti FC, Ana Lauteau – Veitongo FC.
Midfielders: Vea Funaki – Longolongo FC, Laveni Vaka – Utah Avalanche (USA), Ilisapeti Malekamu – Navutoka FC, Hena Fonohema – Fahefa FC, Finehika Finau – Lomaiviti FC, Catherine Fonohema – Fahefa FC, Anne Tuaefe – Marist FC.
Attackers: Tautala Tupoumalohi – Veitongo FC, Daviana Vaka – Utah Avalanche (USA), Malia Tongia – Central United (NZL), Lositika Feke – Longolongo FC.
Head Coach: Christian Koaneti
Stade Numa Daly, Nouméa
Named after former Marseille player Numa Daly, the stadium in the capital of Nouméa has a capacity of 10,000 people. It’s the stadium that will host Group B as well as the bronze final and final. Expect the stadium to be packed should the hosts get to either of those.
Stade Lucien Yoshida, Koné
The stage for Group A will be set at the 1000 capacity Stade Lucien Yoshida in Koné, quite a ways north on the largest island, the Grande Terre, of New Caledonia. With a grass pitch, it is most likely much more familiar to the teams than what awaits them in the quarter-finals.
Stade de la Roche, Maré
This 3000-capacity stadium is home to Horizon who play in the men’s Super Ligue, New Caledonia’s top division. The artificial pitch, its name loosely translating into the stadium on the rock, is situated on the island of Maré, just northeast of the Grande Terre. The stadium will host the first semi-final, between the winner of Group A and the runner-up of Group B.
Stade Hnassé, Lifou
The second semi-final between the winner of Group B and the second placed team of Group A will take place on the island of Lifou. Also with an artificial pitch the stadium, which takes 1680 spectators, will surely bring out a lot of the locals, who total just under 10,000, especially should the home side play.
Football in Oceania wishes the best of luck to all the teams, may the best side win.