New Zealand have qualified for the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup after winning the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship in Samoa.
The New Zealand U-16 side defeated New Caledonia 6-0 in Friday night's final, to maintain a perfect record of featuring in each edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup since hosting the first event back in 2008.
The defending champions lived up to their pre-tournament favouritism throughout the championship with comfortable wins in pool play and in their semi-final against the Cook Islands (winning 9-0), but the final proved a much closer contest with New Zealand 1-0 up at the break thanks to a Arabella Maynard goal in the 28th minute.
Maynard went onto to have a final to remember when she found the back of the net a further three times after half-time. An own goal and a strike from substitute Grace Wisnewski secured the win.
New Zealand U-16 coach Leon Birnie said it was a satisfying result for his team who dominated throughout, but were made to work hard in the final.
“I am really pleased for the girls,” said Birnie. “We have a World Cup to look forward to now and that was the aim when we came here.”
Birnie paid credit to Matthieu Delcroix’s side who were competing in their first final and made life difficult in the hot and humid conditions.
“It was a challenge out there today especially in the first half. New Caledonia played really well. We needed to take our chances in the first five minutes but we didn’t. They made it really hard for us as we were lucky to not concede and be at 1-1. We were much more direct in the second half and we got a bit of joy from that which was good to see.”
Maynard opened the scoring midway through the first half when she followed up a shot at the back post to find the back of the net.
She was then on hand to put away a Kelli Brown strike in the 52nd minute before New Zealand continued to apply pressure to New Caledonia and Melissa Iekawe put the ball into her own net for an own goal. Maynard then completed her hat-trick four minutes later when she went one on one with the keeper. She completed her fine afternoon when she tucked home her fourth in the 68th minute and New Zealand had one hand on the trophy.
Grace Wisnewski came off the bench and finished the scoring when she smashed home a shot from close range in the 72nd minute.
It completed a fine tournament for New Zealand where Brown (14) claimed the Golden Boot for the leading scorer in the championship ahead of compatriots Maggie Jenkins (9), Maynard (7) and Wisnewski (6).
Birnie said the win has laid a good foundation for the team to build on for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Uruguay.
“If I look back at our first game, where we had plenty to work on, to where we are now then we have seen big improvement. We have 12 – 13 months now and we have to keep moving forward and improving and if we do that we will be in a good space come World Cup time.”
OFC Women’s U-16 Championship Final
New Zealand 6 (Arabella Maynard 28’, 52’, 66’, 68’, own goal 62’, Grace Wisnewski 72’)
New Caledonia 0
New Zealand: 13. Rylee Godbold (GK), 3. Aneka Mittendorff (c), 4. Hannah Mackay-Wright, 7. Kelli Brown (6. Grace Wisnewski 57’), 8. Maya Hahn, 10. Maggie Jenkins (16. Jayda Stewart 67’), 11. Arabella Maynard, 12. Macey Fraser (9. Margot Ramsay 57’), 14. Mackenzie Barry, 15. Gabrielle Rennie, 17. Aniela Jensen
Substitutes not used: 1. Georgia Candy (GK), 2. Shannon Trebes, 5. Amy Waters, 18. Britney Cunningham-Lee
Coach: Leon Birnie
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