Oceania: Under-17 Championship gets under way
In much the same way as the CAF African U-17 Championship is taking place at the moment in Rwanda, the Oceania version of the event also began this weekend in New Zealand. Fiji were the big winners putting nine goals past a hapless American Samoa. New Zealand are the big favourites to win the 13th edition of the competition which has only ever been won by two countries. The only other team to have tasted success in this tournament, namely Australia, no longer takes part in the competition since moving over to the Asian Football Confederation.
New Zealand don’t begin their campaign until tomorrow therefore allowing the other four teams in Group A to try and get ahead of the three-time champions. Fiji opened their campaign in fine style by putting nine goals without reply past American Samoa. The surprising thing is that America Samoa, the expected whipping boys in the group, were only 2-0 down at the half-time break but they then allowed their opponents to run riot against them, shipping another seven goals in the process. Seven players scored for the Fijians with only one of them, Akram Hussain, scoring twice. The other game in the group was a much more competitive affair with Vanuatu getting the better of Papua New Guinea with a 2-0 scoreline. Santino Mermer grabbed the opening goal for Vanuatu with just four minutes of the first half remaining before Michel Coulon sealed the win on the hour mark.
Both of the opening Group B matches took place today with Tahiti giving their opponents Tonga a good pasting whilst, in a tighter contest, Solomon Islands emerged as narrow winners over New Caledonia. Two-time runners-up Tahiti got their campaign off to a fantastic start, winning 8-0 against Tonga with Tevairoa Tehuritaua getting his name on the score sheet on no fewer than four occasions. Tonga, playing in their maiden qualifying tournament at this level, were simply no match for their more experienced adversaries. Solomon Islands had Atana Fa’arodo’s 65th minute strike to thank for separating them from New Caledonia in a evenly balanced contest. In the end Solomon Islands won 2-1 and will expect to be up against Tahiti for the group leadership.