14 Jan 2016

Sport: NZ favourites to defend OFC Under 17 Football title

1:10 pm on 14 January 2016

The Oceania Under 17 Women's Football Championships gets underway in Cook Islands this afternoon, with eight teams hoping to earn qualification to the World Cup in Jordan later this year.

New Zealand has won the two previous editions of the OFC U17 Championship and are favoured again to qualify for a fourth-straight World Cup appearance, while Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu are competing at the tournament for the first time.

New Caledonia and Tonga kick things off in Group A before two-time defending champions New Zealand take on Samoa.

New Caledonia coach Mathieu Delcroix is confident the hours which have gone in will pay off come kick-off.

"We've been concentrating on adapting to the weather because it's very hot, very warm. But I think the girls are doing well, we've adapted our training session and I think the girls are ready."

Tonga preparing for the Oceania Under 17 Women's Football Championship.

Tonga preparing for the Oceania Under 17 Women's Football Championship. Photo: Oceania Football

New Zealand coach Gareth Turnbull says his side is targeting an unbeaten campaign.

"To be honest we don't know how Samoa is going to set up so our approach will be on us and trying to work through our processes regarding our preparation physically and mentally, and just go out there and execute the roles that we've asked the girls to do and hopefully the result will take care of itself."

The Samoa squad features two players from Hawaii, three from Australia and two from New Zealand alongside the local players and coach Nadia Malifa believes they're well prepared.

"I'm confident in the team and the way they've responded to all the trainings since the beginning. Off the field and on the field I know everything about my team so I'm confident."

Pool B starts tomorrow with Papua New Guinea taking on Vanuatu before hosts Cook Islands face Fiji.