- New Zealand qualify for the 2020 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup
- Kiwis claimed seventh straight title but made to work hard by New Caledonia
- First Oceania U-19 Women’s Championship to feature all 11 nations
New Zealand won through to their eighth consecutive FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in resounding fashion after a dominant win over New Caledonia in the Oceania final on Thursday.
New Zealand impressed throughout the Cook Islands-based tournament in scoring 58 goals without reply going into the decider. And they maintained that form in the final to wrap up a seventh continental title.
Not that the holders had it all their own way. New Caledonia halved a two-goal deficit to trail by just a single strike midway through the second half. New Zealand, however, powered on by a Gabi Rennie double, finished strongly for a 5-2 triumph.
OFC U-19 Women’s Championship
Dates: 30 August - 12 September
Winner: New Zealand
Runner-up: New Caledonia
Best player: Grace Wisnewski (New Zealand)
Top goalscorer: Kelli Brown (New Zealand)
Best goalkeeper: Corail Harry (Tahiti)
The competition debut of new New Zealand coach Gemma Lewis commenced in extraordinary fashion with a 30-0 win over Samoa. There followed 12-0 and 5-0 victories over American Samoa and Tahiti respectively to round-out the group. An 11-0 semi-final win against Vanuatu saw the Kiwis maintain their form all the way to the decider.
For New Zealand it was a case of continuing momentum after their landmark third-place finish at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Uruguay 2018. Just ten months later, nine of that squad made the transition into the next age bracket. Five players were veterans of the last FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup qualifying cycle, while goalkeeper Nadia Olla was a squad member at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™.
But the headline act at the tournament for New Zealand was undoubtedly striker Kelli Brown. The Forrest Hill Milford United striker hit a remarkable 21 goals in just four outings during the two-week tournament.
For the first time, all 11 Oceania nations participated in the tournament, in a sign of the enhanced focus on women’s football from Pacific nations. While New Zealand’s dominance was clear, there was incremental progress made by a host of countries.
New Caledonia reached their first final in a breakthrough showing, impressing throughout against the holders. Tahiti, under Stephanie Spielmann, claimed bronze in their debut tournament, only missing a spot in the decider on penalties.
There was even a history-making achievement for Oceania’s second-smallest nation, American Samoa. They collected an emotional maiden win at the tournament with a 3-2 triumph over Samoa.
“It’s hard for me to put it into words but you could see it in the emotion of my girls it means a lot to us,” said their USA-based coach Stephen Kettle.
“We’ve prepared for this, and they pulled together and they played for one another and they played for everybody back home and all the teams that have come before them on the men’s and women’s side. This a very special moment for the girls.”