Fiji and Vanuatu secure second and third at OFC U-20 Championship 2013
Rusiate Matarerega celebrates one of his two goals in Fiji’s win. Photo: OFC via Phototek
Oceania Football: March 29, 2013 – New Zealand may have already been crowned champions of the OFC U-20 Championship but, with the other podium spots on the line, there was still plenty to play for on the final day of action at Govind Park in Ba this afternoon.
Hosts Fiji secured second place thanks to a 2-0 win over wooden spooners Papua New Guinea while Vanuatu finished third following a hard-fought encounter with New Caledonia, who were also in the running for the bronze, which ended 4-2.
Fiji coach Ravinesh Kumar was pleased to have earned silver but was disappointed his side couldn’t make their World Cup dream a reality.
“I am happy to have finished second but not very happy as we were vying for the first position and I would much rather have been champions obviously. We have to settle for second though and I am happy for the boys and the nation that we have at least been able to do that,” Kumar said.
“It was a bad night for everybody in the camp after the loss to New Zealand but we knew we had to get over the disappointment quickly as it was important to finish in second place.”
Heavy overnight rain left the pitch sodden by the time Papua New Guinea and Fiji kicked off their match and the heavy underfoot conditions suited Fiji’s more direct game.
After three heavy defeats, culminating in a 9-3 loss at the hands of New Caledonia on Wednesday, Papua New Guinea were well and truly playing for pride. They began brightly but it was Fiji who took the lead early on when Rusiate Matarerega slotted in at the near post to give his side the advantage in the 13th minute.
That strike put Matarerega firmly in the race for the Golden Boot and it was an award he went on to grasp by notching his second in the 38th minute.
With the surface conditions stopping the ball dead in its tracks at times and causing players to lose their footing regularly, Papua New Guinea toiled hard to find a way back into the game but Fiji remained in control and were able to record a clean sheet in their final fixture.
Papua New Guinea assistant coach Harrison Kamake felt the players were unlucky not to sign off with a positive result.
“The credit goes to the boys for their hard work because they dug in deep but we weren’t able to finish on a high note unfortunately,” Kamake said.
“We improved as we progressed throughout the tournament so I believe that if we work a bit harder in certain areas, especially on our strategies, there is potential there for us to do well. If we put lots of planning into our matches I think we can come out with some better results in the future.”
Both New Caledonia and Vanuatu were after their second tournament victory when they came face-to-face in the final match of the competition. With the two sides having a similar style of play – short, sharp passes to feet – it was expected to be an intriguing encounter.
Vanuatu took the lead early on through captain Jean Kaltack, who had previously had a quiet tournament on the goal front, after he scored with a shot from the left hand side of the New Caledonia penalty area in the eighth minute. He went on to become a hat-trick hero for his side, scoring twice more in the second period, in the 51st and 64th minutes, to give Vanuatu a comfortable 3-0 lead.
With the match all but over, New Caledonia launched a strong comeback, scoring through substitute Bernard Waelua 68 minutes in just before one of Vanuatu’s own substitutes, Nicol Tari, helped restore his side’s three-goal cushion and an own goal brought New Caledonia back into the game again.
But, despite the Caledonians’ best efforts, it wasn’t to be their night with the match wrapping up at 4-2 in Vanuatu’s favour.
Vanuatu coach Moise Poida was ecstatic that his side dug deep to secure the win and earn third place.
“We came here to win the tournament but I’m happy with the performance of the boys,” Poida said. “The conditions today didn’t suit our game, our aim is to play football and with the field full of water it was difficult but we managed to get through it and score four goals to win the match.”
New Caledonia counterpart Matthieu Delcroix was disappointed not to claim third place and also lamented the effects of the inclement weather.
“The climatic conditions weren’t ideal for the style of game we wanted to play, but that’s not an excuse. Vanuatu were more determined, more effective and at times we lacked concentration, especially in defence,” Delcroix said.
“I was proud of the boys for not giving up and continuing to try and score, but it’s football and there needs to be a winner and a loser. Vanuatu came out on top and I congratulate them for that.”
In the personal awards, New Zealand pair Louis Fenton and Max Crocombe picked up the Golden Ball and Golden Gloves, for best player and best goalkeeper, respectively, while the Golden Boot went to Fiji striker Matarerega. Vanuatu were the recipients of the Fair Play Award for their superior disciplinary record.