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
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
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.
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.