Fiji set to host regional World Cup qualifier

A new name will be etched on the trophy at this year's OFC Women's Nations Cup. Photo: Shane Wenzlick /
A new name will be etched on the trophy at this year's OFC Women's Nations Cup. Photo: Shane Wenzlick /

Nine teams from across Oceania will come together in Fiji from the 13 to 30 of July in a bid for regional glory at the 12th edition of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup, with a new name set to be etched on the silverware.

The winner of the Oceania qualifier will not earn direct qualification to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™, with New Zealand having taken that as a host, but instead will go on to the FIFA Play-Off Tournament competing with nine other nations from across confederations for one of the three remaining spots in the final tournament.

The draw for the OFC Women’s Nations Cup was held at OFC headquarters in Auckland, New Zealand on May 10, determining the make-up of the three groups.

Group A will see the three Polynesian nations of Tonga, Cook Islands and Samoa compete for a spot in the quarter finals. Ranked 97th, 104th and 111th respectively, the side with the most recent success is Samoa who finished runners-up at the 2019 Pacific Games.

Group B features top 50-ranked side Papua New Guinea alongside Tahiti and Vanuatu, the lowest-ranked participating nation. Papua New Guinea brought on English coach Nicola Demaine at the end of 2021, who has proven success after leading Samoa at the 2018 OFC Women’s Nations Cup and the 2019 Pacific Games. The side has already shown they are committed to retaining their position behind New Zealand in the regional rankings, going unbeaten in a recent tri-series in Singapore.

Tahiti has shown equal commitment to furthering their status in the women’s game, their first offshore tour taking them to France and encounters against Luxembourg. Their first win against a non-Oceania opponent is still to come, but coach Stephanie Spielmann has assembled a strong squad of both local and internationally-based talent.

Vanuatu meanwhile will, like Tonga, be heading to Australia for a month in the build up to the tournament. The side won the 2017 Pacific Mini Games on home soil but failed to come through qualifying for the 2018 OFC Women’s Nations Cup. They will be competing in their first finals tournament since 2010.

Finally in Group C are the three Melanesian nations including host Fiji, New Caledonia and Solomon Islands. Following some impressive results in 2018 and 2019, including an appearance in the 2018 OFC Women’s Nations Cup final, Fiji have climbed to 67th in the rankings behind Papua New Guinea. With former Papua New Guinea U-20 women’s coach Lisa Cole at the reigns the side has been deep in preparation both at home and abroad. A recent camp took them to Australia where they played two matches against World Cup qualified the Philippines.

The match schedule was released following the draw and sees Samoa and Tonga kick off proceedings in the opening match on 13 July at ANZ Stadium in Suva.

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