Sport: NZ, Tahiti book U19 semis spots

New Zealand and Tahiti have advanced to the semi finals in the Oceania Under 19 Football Championship after convincing victories in their final round robin matches.

Captain for the day Max Mata bagged a hat-trick as defending champions New Zealand thrashed Papua New Guinea 4-0 to secure top spot in Group A.

Head coach Des Buckingham was happy to keep their perfect record in tact.

“It was a different game for us. Papua New Guinea set up very well and made it very difficult for us – full credit to them for that especially in the first half,” he said.

“Today was a different test kicking off at 12 in very hot, humid conditions. To be able to manage the game in the way that they did, score four goals and finish with a clean sheet was very pleasing.”

PNG coach Harrison Kamake was disappointed with the final result but pleased with their first-half performance.

“We’d said in camp we had to take the game to them and credit to the boys for the first half and going into the break 0-0,” he said.

“In front we lacked, we had chances but we didn’t finish them and it came back to hurt us.”

In the late game Tahiti scored either side of half-time to seal the second qualifying berth from Group A with a 2-0 victory over Tonga.

Tahiti coach Bruno Tehaamoana said the objective was to get through the group stage and into the semi-finals.

“From the beginning we prepared well for the opening phase and we’ve just won our second match so we’re happy with how it has gone,” he said.

“In the starting line-up there’s some that were injured and some that were on a yellow card and there was a chance they wouldn’t be able to take part in the semi-final so we took some insurance and it worked for us.”

Tonga failed to score across their three matches but coach Soane Mailangi said their first appearance in the main draw has been a valuable experience.

“We have said all along that a good result for Tonga is to come up to this stage and be competitive in an OFC tournament and I think we tried our best to complete all the visions we put through,” he said.

“This stage is a little bit fast, the players are skilled and physical. We’ve learned new skills that we’ll go home and work on and we’re looking forward to the next stage that we go through to.”

The remaining semi finalists will be decided today.

Solomon Islands are already assured of a berth in the knockout rounds and can seal top spot in Group B if they avoid defeat against Vanuatu, while New Caledonia only need a draw against Fiji to progress.


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