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Stage set for OFC U19 Championship: Cooks to face NZ on Wednesday

Tuesday 6 September 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Soccer, Sports

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Stage set for OFC U19 Championship: Cooks to face NZ on Wednesday
U19 Men’s Rarotonga-based players alongside their assistant coach (far left) Tahiri Elikana and assistant manager (far right) Teina Savage. - 22090237

After a four-year absence the best young players from across Oceania will have the chance to face off again this month when the OFC U-19 Championship 2022 kicks off on Wednesday, September 7 in Tahiti.

All 11 OFC Member Association nations are taking part in this year’s edition including reigning champions New Zealand, two-time winners and hosts Tahiti and 2014 conquerors Fiji. The other eight participating teams will be looking to win this tournament for the first time in their respective histories.

Not only will the two finalists play for the trophy in the tournament showpiece on Saturday, September 24, but both will have also earned qualification for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Indonesia 2023™ – so there is plenty at stake for all 11 teams.

Teams were drawn into two groups of four teams and one group of three teams at the OFC U-19 Championship 2022 draw in July. The group winners and runners-up from each group will progress to the quarter-final stage, as well as the two highest-ranked third-placed teams.

From there, the remaining eight teams will battle into the semi-finals and then the final to see who is crowned OFC U-19 champions and establish which two nations qualify for next year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup.

So, what can we expect from the teams at the OFC U-19 Championship 2022?

Group A

Only Australia, who are no longer affiliated with OFC, have won this competition more times than seven-time winners New Zealand and the reigning champions will be strong favourites again in 2022.

However, they will face a tough challenge against the Solomon Islands, even if they will be without star player Raphael Lea’i.

American Samoa have named an entirely domestic based group of players for their first group stage appearance since 2014 while the Cook Islands have named six players who took part in Nikao Sokattak’s recent OFC Champions League campaign.

Cook Islands will play New Zealand in the opener on Wednesday.

Group B

Host nation Tahiti were runners-up four years ago and are two-time winners, including the first ever champions back in 1974. They hosted the event on that occasion, and again when triumphant in 2008, so will hope for more home success.

After two consecutive group stage exits following their 2014 title win Fiji will be looking to improve and a recent 1-1 draw with New Zealand in preparation for the tournament will give them a boost. Papua New Guinea are playing in their 15th tournament and will look to take inspiration from the women’s team who won the OFC Women’s Nations Cup in July. Tonga will be looking to escape from the group stage for the first time.

Group C

New Caledonia finished third four years ago and have been in the top four in the past four editions of the competition and will be looking to continue that trend. Vanuatu finished as runners-up in both 2014 and 2016 and will be looking to make up for their group stage exit in 2018.

Samoa round out the group and have spread their net far and wide in the hunt for talent, with players based in Australia, New Zealand, Qatar and the United States all featuring.

Cook Islands U19 - Ariki Kiriau- Avatiu FC, Oscar  Wichman- Avatiu FC, Tione Nand- Avatiu FC, Silas  Trego- Avatiu FC, Jean Tua- Matavera-Ngatangiia FC, Marcus Gibbens- Matavera-Ngatangiia FC, Brook  Kurariki- Nikao Sokattak FC, Dwayne- Nikao Sokattak FC, Hubert Tou- Nikao Sokattak FC, Jordan  Matapo- Nikao Sokattak FC, Moana  Rakei- Nikao Sokattak FC, Nia Jnr Remuera- Nikao Sokattak FC, Temarii Kelly Jubilee- Titikaveka FC, Nukumaeaea Tima Mokora- Titikaveka FC, Ngametua Tahna Tuakana- Tupapa Maraerenga FC, Shane Mathias Taunga Tuteru- Tupapa Maraerenga FC, Apiti Arere- Aitutaki-based, Davida David- Aitutaki-based, Dalziel Beal- Australia Based,Ngereine Zachary Maro- New Zealand-Based. Management Team: Alan John Taylor- Head Coach, Tahiri Elikana- Assistant Coach, Paul -Turepu- Manager, Teina Savage- Assistant Manager, Lucia Young- Physio.

-Mathew Nash/OFC MEDIA