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New Zealand win big to qualify for Japan

Papua New Guinea also tasted victory with a hard-fought 4-2 result against New Caledonia to leapfrog their opponents into second place.
But the day belonged to the Junior Football Ferns who, like their U-17 counterparts, claimed the Oceania title in style to ensure a fourth consecutive appearance at the World Cup finals.
Captain Rosie White led by example with four goals, completing her fifth international hat-trick at all levels, while fellow senior international Olivia Chance also claimed a hat-trick to help guide New Zealand to their biggest win at U-20 level.
Stephanie Skilton scored a brace with Caitlin Smallfield, Tessa Berger and substitute Hannah Wilkinson rounding out the scoring as New Zealand blasted six past Samoa in each half.
“It feels fantastic that we have qualified. It is a good moment for this team and for women’s football in New Zealand,” says coach Aaron McFarland.
“We have been working hard and this is one of the few chances where we get the whole squad together.”
McFarland paid credit to his captain, who was one of the few players to feature in all three matches.
“Rosie White is a great leader first and for most. She embodies all the qualities that we look for in our players and to put the ball in the net as often as she does is a great skill to have – a great asset for the team.
“We had a good look at all the players. I think each player had at least 90 minutes out of the three games, so that has given everyone an opportunity to impress for the World Cup and beyond.”
With eight goals to her name, White picked up the Golden Boot for the second time after her nine-goal haul in 2010.
“We put in a good performance for our last game, so we are all pretty excited and can’t wait to go to the World Cup,” says White.
“I think we will do well in Japan. We still have room for improvement, but this is a really strong team.”
There was also plenty of action in the earlier match as New Caledonia went in search of their second win while Papua New Guinea tried to follow in the footsteps of their compatriots who finished runners-up at the OFC U-17 Women’s Championship yesterday.
Sandra Birum’s ninth minute goal was cancelled out within 60 seconds by New Caledonian striker Marie Heutro who then headed in a second midway through the half to take her tournament tally to five.
Birum made it 2-2 going into the break before Lydia Kose added a third in the 54th minute, with Meagan Gunemba playing provider for both goals. Les Cagous were left exposed pushing for an equaliser and Gunemba took full advantage with a runaway goal in stoppage time to cap off an impressive performance.
Coach Max Foster was delighted to see his strikers bounce back from a lacklustre performance two days prior.
“After the draw with Samoa, we needed to win this so I’m very pleased with the result,” said Foster.
“I told my strikers Meagan Gunemba and Sandra Birum that they have a job to do – to score goals – and they did that today. So I have to say congratulations to the girls.”
New Caledonia coach Matthieu Delcroix was disappointed not to finish with a win but says the tournament has been a valuable experience for his young squad.
“We scored against New Zealand and we made it hard for Papua New Guinea so the players can be proud on what they have done.”
In the individual awards, New Zealand’s Erin Nayler was named goalkeeper of the tournament while teammate Kate Loye received the coveted Golden Ball award for best player. New Caledonia picked up the Fair Play Award for their efforts.
The Junior Football Ferns will go on to represent OFC at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan from 19 August to 8 September joining China, Korea DRP, Korea Republic, Germany, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, Mexico, USA, Argentina, Brazil, the two African champions and hosts Japan in the 16-team tournament.
Story: Courtesy of OFC. For more details, visit OFC website www.oceaniafootball.com

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