OFC Champions League is Back!

After three years of inactivity, the largest club competition in the South Pacific is back. The OFC Champions League will begin in June with a new format with fewer matches and less travel because of flight restrictions imposed after the Covid-19 pandemic.

The champions and runners-up of the major national leagues – except New Zealand Football who have named Auckland City as their representative in the final round – from Oceania will confront each other in the first round to compete for a spot in the final round.

The champions of the four developing nations (Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoa, and American Samoa) fought each other to determine who advanced to the final. The matches have not yet been scheduled to take place.

OFC Champions League Trophy – Phototek

Match Schedule:

4th June | Sc Ne Drehu vs Hienghène Sport – Stade Yoshida, Kone

6th June | Hienghène Sport vs Sc Ne Drehu – Stade Numa Daly, Noumea

6th June | Solomon Warriors FC vs Central Coast FC – TBC

10th June | Central Coast FC vs Solomon Warriors FC – TBC

14th June | AS Pirae vs AS Venus – Stade Pater, Papeete

17th June | Rewa FC vs Lautoka FC – Churchill Park, Lautoka

18th June | RueRue FC vs Galaxy FC – Luganville Soccer City Stadium, Luganville

19th June | Lautoka FC vs Rewa FC – Ratu Cakobau Park, Suva

25th June | Galaxy FC vs RueRue FC – Korman Stadium, Port Vila

25th June | Lae City FC vs Hekari United FC – PNG Football Stadium, Port Moresby

All the information was released by the Oceania Football Confederation on their website. The OFC Champions League champion will represent Oceania at the 2022 FIFA Club World Cup.

OFC Women’s Nations Cup groups decided

The OFC Women’s Nations Cup is Oceania’s most important tournament for women. Today – May 10th – the draw was made to determine the groups for the 2022 tournament that will give a chance for an Oceania team other than New Zealand to contest the intercontinental playoff for the first time.

There will be 3 groups with 3 teams, with the top two teams and the top two third-placed teams advancing to the quarterfinals. The FIFA ranking was the criteria used for which team would be in each pot for the draw.

OFC Women’s Nations Cup Group Stage – OFC Media

The Papua New Guinea women’s national team, five-time winners of the Pacific Games, and the Fiji women’s team, current runners-up in the Nations Cup, are the two favorites to fight for the competition title and consequently travel to Australia to fight for a spot in the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

The tournament will have an unprecedented winner as New Zealand which is co-host of the 2023 Women’s World Cup will not participate in the competition. The other two teams that have already won the tournament – Taiwan and Australia – are no longer playing in the Oceania Football Confederation.

The tournament takes place from July 13th to July 30th in Fiji.

Tonga women’s national team loses again to Philippines in friendly match in Australia

The Tonga women’s national team is on a training camp tour in Australia in preparation for the OFC Women’s Nations Cup. During this period two friendly matches against the Philippines Women’s National Team took place.

The first match was played on April 22nd with a painful 16-0 loss – the second match took place on April 30th also in Sydney. Unlike the first game Tonga had a better defensive record, which made it more difficult for the Philippines – that was playing a very different setup. In the end Tonga lost 5-0, but the result marks good evolution from the first to the second game.

Philippines vs Tonga – Philippines WNT

The Tonga women’s national team will finish their training camp in Australia before returning home with two months to go until the start of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup.

OFC Women’s Nations Cup to be held in Fiji in July

The OFC Women’s Nations Cup is the most important tournament in the South Pacific for women- the tournament also serves as a qualifier for the World Cup. The 2022 edition has a different situation: New Zealand, which dominates the competition historicaly, will not participate in the tournament because it is one of the hosts of the 2023 Women’s World Cup alongside Australia – so this year’s tournament will also not as qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games as in the previous editions.

Fiji’s Trina Davis celebrating her goal in the semifinal against Papua New Guinea at the 2018 OFC Women’s Nations Cup – OFC Media

Nine national teams will fight for a place in the intercontinental playoff – Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and Cook Islands. American Samoa has withdrawn from the tournament because of COVID-19 problems.

The format of the tournament will consist in three groups with three teams each – the top two from each group advance and the best two third-placed teams to the quarterfinals – the draw for the groups takes place on May 10th.

The winners will go to Australia to play in an intercontinental playoff that will feature teams from around the globe. The OFC Women’s Nations Cup takes place from July 13 to 30 in Fiji.

Ryan Thomas out of Intercontinental Playoff against Costa Rica

Ryan Thomas is one of the most talented players New Zealand has produced in the last decade, since 2018 he plays for Dutch giants PSV after a successful stint at PEC Zwolle.

Even with a successful career in Dutch football the 27-year-old midfielder has suffered from major injuries that have prevented him from achieving good playing time with PSV and also not allowing him from representing the national team for many times- his last appearance with the All Whites was in a friendly match against Ireland in 2019. Thomas is already close to the 600-days mark of injury period due to six injuries in his time with PSV.

Ryan Thomas playing for PSV

And his current knee injury will cause him to miss the decisive match against Costa Rica in the intercontinental playoff for a place in the World Cup – as coach Danny Hay told the New Zealand Federation:

“We are all really disappointed that Ryan isn’t going to be able to join us, but the reality is that he is coming back from a long-term injury and hasn’t been able to play a full 90 minutes so far this season. With just over a month before we are looking to start our pre intercontinental playoff camp, it unfortunately isn’t possible he will be ready in time“, said Hay.

New Zealand faces Costa Rica on June 14th in Doha, Qatar for a place in the World Cup – unfortunately without the presence of such a talented player.

All Whites face Peru before World Cup’s Qualifiers battle

New Zealand confirmed their favoritism and went through the OFC Qualifiers winning all their matches. Now the challenge is the intercontinental playoff against Costa Rica in Qatar for a place in the World Cup.

To prepare for the decisive duel against Costa Rica – which takes place on June 14th – the All Whites will face a well-known team for theirselves, the national team of Peru, who beat New Zealand in the intercontinental playoff for the 2018 World Cup – On that occasion New Zealand drew 0-0 with Peru in Wellington and was defeated 2-0 in Lima.

Peru and New Zealand met in the intercontinental playoff in 2017

Peru’s national team is also in an intercontinental playoff – against either Australia or the United Arab Emirates and will face one of the two on June 13th also in Doha.

The friendly match between New Zealand and Peru will take place at the RCDE Stadium in Barcelona – home of Espanyol. The match will take place on June 5th – nine days before All Whites face Costa Rica in Doha.

Georges Gope-Fenepej scores, Concarneau wins the Brittany Derby and keeps dreaming of promotion to Ligue 2

🇫🇷Français

Concarneau and Stade Briochin took to the field for the thirty-first round of the Championnat National – the third tier of French football. For Concarneau, the three points were crucial to keep their dream of a place in Ligue 2 alive.

Georges Gope-Fenepej has been playing an important role in Concarneau’s journey in the competition.

US Concarneau had been increasing its draw streak to seven matches and consequently was winless for eight games. The 1-1 draw against arch-rival Stade Briochin was taking the team away from its chances of playing in Ligue 2 for the first time in history.

Until in the 55th minute, coach Stéphane Le Mignan called on Georges Gope-Fenepej to make his twenty-first appearance in the Championnat National 21/22. Only 10 minutes were needed for the New Caledonian football legend to score and put US Concarneau ahead of the scoreboard. After a misplaced clearance by the opponent, Faissal Mannai found Gope-Fenepej who came face to face with the goalkeeper, the New Caledonian struck with his left foot from the left side of the goalkeeper and scored his first goal in the competition. In the end US Concarneau even increased the advantage over their rivals of Stade Briochin.

Georges Gope-Fenepej celebrating the victory with his teammates in the locker room – US Concarneau Media

With the win US Concarneau is only one point behind FC Villefranche for the playoff spot and five points behind FC d’Annecy for the direct spot in Ligue 2 – with only three rounds left to go in the Championnat National.

Tonga returns to international football after Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha’apai disaster

On January 14th the Tongan people suffered a severe blow with the violent eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano causing a tsunami in the country and sending a cloud of ash and gas vapor into the air. As a result, the entire population had to be evacuated in a hurry, without power and communication. Unfortunately five people died due to the consequences of the volcano – being three in Tonga.

Soon after the disaster the people of Tonga joined forces to help the country restructure itself for better days. Football would logically be the last thing on Tonga’s list of concerns this year – the men’s national team was forced to withdraw of the World Cup qualifiers. Then came the question of whether the women’s team would be able to play the OFC Women’s Nations Cup or not – which will also serve as a qualifier for the Women’s World Cup.

The doubts came to an end early last week, when the Tongan Football Federation announced that the women’s national team would leave for Sydney to face the Philippines in a friendly match on April 22th.

Tonga delegation departing for Australia – Tonga Football Media

The Philippine women’s national team has qualified for the 2023 World Cup – which will take place in Australia and New Zealand. Earlier this month they played two friendly matches against the Fiji women’s national team also in Sydney.

Tonga lost 16-0 to the Philippines in the friendly match last Friday. It is a painful defeat but the experience ofnfacing a high level team serve as a learning experience for the girls.

Philippines vs Tonga – Philippines WNT

Now, the Tonga women’s team will spend another month in Australia preparing for the OFC Women’s Nations Cup – which will take place this July in Fiji.

Alden Suri scores first goal as senior player in New Zealand

On Friday – 8th April – Alden Suri made his debut for Petone FC in the Central League. This Thursday – 14th April – Alden Suri returned to the field for Petone FC against Napier City Rovers in the fourth round of the New Zealand Central League – the most important football league of the New Zealand’s capital region.

He scored his first goal for Petone FC in the 59th minute after receiving the ball on the left side, driving the ball and shooting with his right foot into the keeper’s left corner. If not for Harry Mason’s late goal in the 90th minute, the young Solomon Island’s striker would have given Petone FC their first win in the New Zealand Central League.

Alden Suri scores for the first time for Petone FC – Petone FC Media

Petone FC now return to the field next Saturday against Waterside Karori AFC and hopefully Alden Suri will get more and more minutes and continue his rise in New Zealand football.

You can watch Suri’s goal below:

Papua New Guinea wins Tri Nations in Singapore

The Papua New Guinea women’s national team left for the Asian continent to continue their preparation for the OFC Women’s Nations Cup, which will take one team from Oceania to the intercontinental playoff.

This time Papua New Guinea played the Tri-Nations tournament; the opponents were the hosts Singapore and the national team from Seychelles.

In the first match the Lakatois thrashed Seychelles 9-0. Seychelles had also lost to Singapore 6-2, so the two teams faced each other to determine who would take the tournament title.

Photo: Singapore FA

In the match against Singapore, Sonia Emhabe scored her first international goal within 15 minutes remaining to give Papua New Guinea the win.

Coach Nicola Demaine was pleased and praised the team: “I was pleased to see the players ability to maintain their focus and technical skills under pressure of an international game and Infront of the crowd. There are definitely things we want to improve on. The more we play and learn, the more variety and complexity we can add to our collective tactics… We showed everyone that we can compete at this level, against any team with a higher world ranking. We took Papua New Guinea on and we gave a good account of ourselves, which I am very proud of. There was fantastic effort from every player and as a team, we put on a valiant effort”

The Papua New Guinea women’s team is likely to return to another training camp and play one or two more friendly matches to prepare for the Nations Cup in July – as the federation said.