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With Group B’s second semi-final berth either Tonga or Fiji’s for the taking, the two nations will be vying for crucial points when they face Cook Islands and American Samoa, respectively, in their final group matches of the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship today
Already out of contention for the semi-final stage, competition debutants American Samoa will be out to cause an upset when they face Tonga in the opening match of the day. Tonga need a strong win – and Cook Islands to defeat Fiji – to equalise with Fiji on points and overtake the Melanesian nation on goal difference.
Feeling positive after claiming their first point of the competition on Monday, Tonga coach Lafaela Moala has put Cook Islands and Fiji’s encounter out of his mind and is keeping focus on repeating the impressive performance Tonga gave against Fiji.
“I’m very excited for the match because even though we drew the last game, it was the best I’ve seen the girls play. They never gave up. They kept playing until the last minute,” he said.
“That’s why I’m so excited to see them play again. I’m expecting to see them at their best again.
“I’m expecting us to get a win. It is a must.”
Despite falling short of the knockout stage, American Samoa’s debut campaign has exceeded the expectations of Coach Ruth Tuato’o, who is looking forward to seeing her side leave everything on the field in their final meeting with Tonga.
“The girls have done really well and I’m really proud of how they’ve been performing. I can’t ask for anything else except for them to be prepared for our next game,” she said.
“We’re a bit nervous but the girls have been improving from the first game up until now so I know there’s a lot we can give in this game.”
Cook Islands will be hoping for an unbeaten streak when they meet Fiji at 5pm to avoid a likely clash against New Zealand, who are looking set to win Group A. The second place nation in Group B will likely be drawn against the defending champions, which will be a difficult route to the final.
After a complacent performance against American Samoa in their previous match, Cook Islands coach Theresa Tatuava is preparing her side for a tough encounter and hopes to see her players lift to the intensity she expects from them.
“They got a bit complacent when they got a few goals ahead of American Samoa and they sort of relaxed. That’s not what we can afford to do, especially coming up against Fiji,” she said.
“Fiji isn’t a side that we can underestimate at all. They may have drawn against Tonga and we beat Tonga but that doesn’t tell us anything because they could come back and bring their A-game.
“They’re fast – definitely – and they’ve got a lot of tall girls. They’re physical as well so that’s something we have to compete against as well.”
Regardless of the result between Tonga and American Samoa in the earlier match of the day, Fiji will be fighting for the top spot in the group.
Fiji coach Marika Rodu knows how much is riding on the line in their final Group B encounter, and although they’ve proven their strength, speed and fitness in the past two games, Rodu believes his side’s final match will require a lot of mental strength.
“The girls are doing very well physically but we need to be tough mentally,” he said.
“We’ll try to work our way through the Cook Islands challenge and try to conquer whatever they throw at us.
“They are a well-formed team – Cook Islands – but we’ll try to come at them with speed on Friday.”.
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