Hienghène beats Ne Drehu and will represent New Caledonia at OFC Champions League final round

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Hienghène and SC Ne Drehu kicked off the OFC Champions League 2022 at Stade Yoshida last Saturday – 4th June – for the first OFC Champions League national qualifier. The winner of the two-legged clash is going to represent New Caledonia in the final round of the 2022 OFC Champions League.

The first scoring opportunity came from Jordan Wetria, who after Mone Wamowe’s cross got ahead of Rocky Nyikeine and headed the ball over the goal. In the 22nd minute Jordan Wetria was brought down by Jean-Luc Decoire in the penalty box and the referee awarded a penalty kick to Ne Drehu. Mone Wamowe hit it firmly in the middle of the goal and opened the scoring line.

Hienghène started chasing SC Ne Drehu’s advantage but without getting any great chances in the first half except for a shot from Joseph Athale that goalkeeper Nicodem Hmaen hit back and in the rebound striker Antone Roine sent it over the bar.

In the second half both SC Ne Drehu and Hienghène looked for the goal with both teams having good opportunities. In the 71st minute, a perfect free-kick from Mone Wamowe was headed in by Emile Hace, who scored SC Ne Drehu’s second goal with 20 minutes remaining.

SC Ne Drehu’s players celebrating the second goal – Alain Vartane

With 20 minutes left in the match Hienghène were in a dramatic situation taking a two-goal deficit into the second leg. But a late reaction began in the 86th minute when Miguel Kayara advanced down the right wing and was fouled near the penalty area. Brice Dahite’s cross was met by Emile BĂ©arunĂ©, who scored for Hienghène with 3 minutes remaining.

Hienghène continued to press SC Ne Drehu for the equalizer in the final minutes, again in a move by Miguel Kayara on the right wing he crossed and the ball fell to Brice Dahite who suffered a foul inside the box almost in the last play of the game – Joseph Athale from the penalty spot scored the goal to make the match tied for the second leg.

Hienghène, who had already got a great result, started pressing SC Ne Drehu at the Stade Numa-Daly and opened the scoring through New Caledonian football legend Bertrand KaĂŻ in the 22nd minute after he received the ball in the box following a header from Brice Dahite – he received it, turned it around, and hit a low shot into the goalkeeper’s left corner without any chance of defense for Nicodem Hmaen.

SC Ne Drehu’s responded rapidly; in the 25th minute Nathanael Hmaen scored a beautiful goal from a free kick to tie the match. Both teams created chances to score a second goal, but the match finished tied at the halftime.

In the 48th minute Antone Roine was yellow-carded after the referee alleged simulation in the penalty box. In the 54th minute he saw red after a foul on Renzo Wejieme letting his side with only 10-men.

With an extra player SC Ne Drehu began to have more space and create more chances in the match, Nathanael Hmaen came face to face with Jacques Nyikeine but he was stopped by the Hienghène goalkeeper.

Already at the stoppage time, when the match seemed to be going into extra time, Miguel Kayara made a beautiful cross for Bertrand KaĂŻ to head it home and score Hienghène’s winning goal.

Bertrand KaĂŻ and his teammates celebrating the qualifying goal – OFC Media

The defending champions Hienghène now join Auckland City of New Zealand and Nikao Sokattak FC of the Cook Islands in the final round of the OFC Champions League 2022. The remaining spots for the final round of the regional competition are still to be determined.

Hienghène and Ne Drehu kicks-off the 2022 OFC Champions League

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Today – 4th June – the start of the 2022 OFC Champions League will be set. The most important competition in the South Pacific returns after two seasons of absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2020 edition the tournament was cancelled just after the completion of the group stage.

As explained earlier the competition will have two stages: first the national champions and runners-up of the countries – except New Zealand who nominated Auckland City for the competition – competing for a spot in the final phase. The four developing nations – Tonga, Cook Islands, Samoa, and American Samoa – will compete against each other for a place in the quarterfinals.

The first clash will be between New Caledonia champions Hienghène Sport and current OFC Champions League title holders against New Caledonia league runners-up SC Ne Drehu.

Hienghène and Ne Drehu playing in the New Caledonia championship final – FCF Media

Currently Hienghène Sport is ranked second in the New Caledonia Super League while SC Ne Drehu is at third place – Tiga Sports is currently the top-placed side at New Caledonia’s premier league.

There will be two duels, the first takes place at Stade Yoshida with SC Ne Drehu being the home team, and the return match at Stade Numa-Daly on July 6th, both matches at 3pm Nouméa time. The winner advances to the final round that will include other teams from different Oceania countries.

David Browne scores for the first time this season as HJK beats FC Haka

Last Sunday – May 22nd – HJK and FC Haka took to the field in the eighth round of the Veikkausliiga – the Finnish national football league. The match was special due the presence of three players from Oceania: HJK’s Papua New Guinea striker David Browne and New Zealand’s Oliver Whyte and Logan Rogerson.

In the fifth minute Logan Rogerson, making his ninth appearance in the Veikkausliiga, received the ball on the right wing and found Lee Erwin free in the box to open the score for the visitors. It was the New Zealander’s first assist in the Finnish league.

Still in the first half Miro Tenho equalized for HJK with a header. In the second half HJK began to pressure FC Haka in search of the second goal that came in the 50th minute with the Brazilian Murilo crossing the ball and finding David Browne in the area, the Kapuls striker dominated and hit with his left foot with no chance for the FC Haka goalkeeper.

David Browne vs FC Haka – FC Haka Media

It was David Browne’s first goal in his seventh game – his second time in the starting lineup in the 2022 season for HJK. Oliver Whyte came on the field in the 81st minute in place of his compatriot Logan Rogerson to make his sixth appearance in the Finnish league – by that time the score was already 3-1 to HJK who won the match 4-1.

HJK is ranked second in the Veikkausliiga with the same 25 points as leaders KuPS, but with still a game to be played. FC Haka is seventh with 10 points.

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

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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.