NEW CALEDONIA vs AMERICAN SAMOA
The New Caledonians expected to bounce back from the 3-2 defeat they had against New Zealand in their first match in the competition. American Samoa knew they would have all the odds against them. As expected, New Caledonia started up on top, the impressive Hienghène’s young-star Nolhann Alebate had the first clear chance of the game – he missed an one-on-one situation against American Samoa’s goalkeeper Alex Mae’e putting the ball sideways the goal. But still at the 4th minute, Alebate opened the scoreline in favour of his side after a smart cross from the wing-back Ronald Ngayane.
American Samoa was unable to create goalscoring chances through passing combinations, then so their set pieces proved to be dangerous to the New Caledonians. First, the team captain Johnica Collins crossed the ball to the area, after a defensive blunder Ben Tofaeono took the ball already in the penalty box, but his finish went side-netting. Minutes later, the same Collins tried a long-range free-kick shot, the ball went past the goalkeeper but it ended up hitting the crossbar.
Alex Mae’e kept his nets clean for a long period, making a number good stops. But at the 27th minute Anthony Levy scored from the penalty spot after an unfortunate handball inside the penalty area – offence commited by Robert Coulter.
The team coached by Leonardo Lopez could only score twice in the first half – but their final 45 minutes proved to be much better. At the 58th minute Simon Ue counted on the mistake of Alex Mae’e to score the third for his country – the goalkeeper went to easy to catch the ball. Eight minutes later David Cahma added another for his country, the fourth, and just five minutes later it was the turn of Jean-Yves Saïko to score. To finish the game for New Caledonia, Lopez added the pacy striker Sipane Qaeze – adding more two goals, one at the 68th minute and another at the 70th minute. The final score: New Caledonia 7-0 American Samoa.
With this impressive win, the New Caledonia youngsters booked their flights to Suva to the quarterfinals while American Samoa still have very little chances to proceed – but for this Tonga will need to concede at least 12 goals to Fiji this Wednesday (18th Jan).
VANUATU vs COOK ISLANDS
If the team coached by the Brazilian Emerson Alcantara expected an easy match against Cook Islands, they proved to be very wrong. The Ni-Vanuatu side needed to fight hard to confirm their spot in the quarterfinals.
Despite the hard match it was, the first minute of the game seemed that Vanuatu would have an easy match: Augustine Chilia scored into the the first minute of the game – exactly at the 36′ seconds. The talented Jimmy Moso got the ball and found the No. 10 Chilia free in the box to just chip it over the goalkeeper Teina Ngametua.
The Ni-Vanuatu side continued to create a number of scoring chances – even hitting the post in one situation. As they failed to add another, it was the Cook Islands who had the chance – and they took it: after goalkeeper Jospeh Nakiou left his goal to prevent Tione Nand from picking the ball up and letting it slip away, the ball offered itself to Jeremiah Williams, the Auckland United midfielder flicked it over the goalkeeper to tie the game.
The half-time scoreline ended-up tied – but just after both teams returned to the pitch Vanuatu took the lead again. This time it was Jimmy Moso, the attacker controlled the ball with one foot and finished with the other – the ball still touched the post and went in to the nets of goalkeeper Ngametua.
As Vanuatu took the lead the team took control of the game; a lot of fifty-fifty battles in the midfield marked the rest of the second half. Vanuatu created good chances, but the best remaining chance of the game was in favour of the Cook Islands: Juleo Tauu had a close-range free-kick to take, but it ended up hitting the wall.
Vanuatu confirmed their 2-1 win and a spot in the quarterfinals; and the same can be said for the Cook Islands. Despite two losses, the team might qualify as one of the two-best third places in the tournament. Just one team of the nine taking part in the tournament will leave in the group stage – Cook Islands conceded less goals than American Samoa in the Group A, it means at leas the second-best 3rd placed-side they will take. Both teams await the final of the group stage to know which side they will play in the quarterfinals stage.